CALLIMACHUS’S INDEX

August 6, 2019

 

 

Callimachus’s most famous work is the Pinakes  (meaning Tables), a 120-volume bibliographic survey of the authors who works were stored in the Great Library of Alexandria. By consulting the Pinakes, a patron could find out if the library contained a work by a particular author, how it was categorized, and where it might be found. Callimachus, who lived about 300 years before Miriam’s time, apparently without any models for his pinakes, developed the system entirely on his own.

   

The Library’s hundreds of thousands of scrolls were grouped by subject matter and stored in labeled bins. These labels gave bibliographic information for each scroll beginning with its title, author’s name, birthplace, father’s name, teachers, and educational background. In addition, it gave a brief biography of the author and a list of publications. These labels also summarized the content and gave information about the origin of the scroll.

   

Callimachus classified each work into one of eleven categories: rhetoric, law, epic, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, history, medicine, mathematics, natural science, and miscellanies. Each category was then alphabetized by author. This system became the model for organizing the knowledge at that time and paved the way for the standardized approaches used today.

 

 

 

 

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