HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Miriam is overwhelmed by the size of the Library’s collection when her tutor, Hector [see my blog, “Miriam’s Tutor” of June 27, 2017], brings her there in THE DEADLIEST LIE:
Hector hustled me into one of the many chambers that flank the vaulted reading room, the Library’s largest and airiest hall. Each must store hundreds if not thousands of scrolls. Slaves on ladders were shelving and fetching scrolls from immense storage cabinets while others were hauling armloads and basketfuls to waiting readers. In one corner, three bearded scholars sat huddled over a table stacked with layers of unrolled manuscripts. Hector explained that they were comparing different Homeric texts to ascertain the canonical version, which, as a source of income for the Library, scribes would copy for wealthy bibliophiles around the world.
How were the readers able to locate the desired papyri? Thanks to Callimachus, among the most influential and productive scholars of the Hellenistic Age, a patron could find any particular scroll among the approximately 700,000 in the Great Library. A native of the Greek colony, Cyrene in Libya, he was a poet, critic, and researcher at the Great Library responsible for inventing the first bibliographic classification system, a kind of index, to identify and catalog the contents of the Library. For the first time, scholars could access information on a huge range of subjects and consult, process, and synthesize it all at once. And so, his innovation not only transformed the Library but became the basis for the cataloguing and bibliographic systems we use today.
Next week, I’ll tell you more about his system. In the meantime, accompany Miriam and Hector as they visit the Great Library in THE DEADLIEST LIE. The book has been praised by the Historical Novel Society as “finely crafted and fascinating historical fiction.” Just click here.