Libraries. A fragile story | Review The books and the place

Libraries. A fragile story | Review The books and the place
Libraries. A fragile story | Review The books and the place

He claimed Cicero that whoever had a library and a garden did not need anything else. Fray Luis de León He clarified that books should be like friends: few and good. And, in fact, even though Montaigne Growing up surrounded by what was perhaps the most distinguished library of his time, Erasmus needed a much more modest collection of volumes to consolidate humanism as the most coherent response in a bleeding Europe. The tendency to accumulate them is as old as the invention of books itself and has been subjected to paradigms of the caliber of Gutenberg’s printing press, which forever changed the definition and meaning of books. libraries, although its implementation was much slower and more controversial than is usually stated. In these millennia, the same term library has acquired very different meanings, sometimes mutating, sometimes contradictory: a library is, at the same time, a project of very personal definition or of community affiliation, a monument to the ego of its owner or a service of social and solidarity care, a means of subjugation and extermination or a space for social and identity resistance. Only from the 19th century onwards, in an indisputably brief period in this history, can we talk about libraries public; But in the 20th century, libraries, public, private, academic or educational, adopted a crucial role in the most tragic conflicts and often played the role of soldier on the battlefield. A library is, in the end, a faithful mirror of the human condition, a sign of its time and its paradoxes, a place of inspiration and a throwing weapon; but, above all, and perhaps within that same contradictory essence, it is a space of extreme fragility, always conceived to last on the back of a dream cut short before its time, either due to the weakness of the material collected, or due to the way in which that the most diverse political and economic interests aspire to control libraries as a necessary measure for hegemonic prevalence in power. This weakness is the premise under which historians Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen They published the essay in 2021 Libraries. A fragile storywhich is now launched by the publisher Captain Swing with the translation of Enrique Maldonado Roldan.

The essay follows the informative model of the ‘stories of History’, with fascinating examples such as that of the Columbian Library in Seville

To a large extent, the essay fits like a glove into the cultivation of bibliomania so typical of contemporary times that has given us unexpected successes such as that of Infinity in a reed of Irene Vallejo. In Libraries There is a certain common spirit, although with a patina that is somewhat more sensitive to academic taste without renouncing its informative aspiration, within the reach of a wide range of readers. The volume takes a chronological journey through the history of libraries, since Antiquity, marked by the appearance of the Library of Alexandria, to the digital repositories of the 21st century, which forces authors to irremediably delimit the field of their research: even with references to Chinese, Indian, African, Andalusian or American libraries, the overview directs the focus above all to the Western context and European, as a surely dubious but in any case effective representative sample. From here, Pettegree and Der Weduwen adopt the Anglo-Saxon model of stories from history to put together your essay, through different episodes reviewed with novel resources and illustrative intent. One of the juiciest stories has to do with the Columbian Library, which he assembled in Seville. Hernando Colon (1488-1539), son of Christopher, with the aim of replicating the ancient Library of Alexandria in the formation of a universal legacy. Columbus failed in his endeavor, but his feat did not have much parallel in his time: given over to an obsession that led him to buy numerous volumes throughout Europe, overcoming all-out wars, faced with a Inquisition jealous of his inclination to acquire books suspected of Lutheran contamination and fatal shipwrecks (such as the one that sank a ship from Venice bound for Seville and with a treasure of books on board for the acquisition of which the emperor Carlos V had invested two thousand crowns) and with friendship as a fraternal guarantee of Erasmus of Rotterdam (of whose works he amassed up to 185 copies for his library), the collector exemplifies well the way in which the new vision of the world that inspired the Renaissance It was transferred to libraries as exercises in global expansion and violation of limits. Without heirs who shared the same desire, his bibliophile heritage, which reached 15,000 volumes including printed matter and manuscripts, and of which only 3,500 are preserved in the Cathedral of Seville, ended up torn to pieces as a decisive sign of fragility.

In the most tragic conflicts of the 20th century, libraries often took on the role of the soldier in battle

Much of the essay’s interest lies in its review of the reformist period (Andrew Pettegree has dedicated a good part of his academic and research career to the Lutheran Reformation), in which libraries became a fundamental strategic piece of the ideological battle with the printing press as an incentive (although the reluctance to the invention of Gutenberg were notorious on both sides for centuries, which invites us to reflect on a more than sung digital hegemony over paper in the future despite the present resistance). But no less exciting is the review of the Illustration and its permanent colonialist temptation with respect to libraries or the sad survival throughout Europe of the management model established in Germany in the shadow of the Nazism, based on the tireless promotion of one’s own content and the genocidal elimination of other people’s materials. Thus, the censorshipthe lack of resources, the digitalization of processes and the cornering of public libraries in cultural strategies offer little invitation to optimism in the 21st century, although “the pure tangible condition of the book is a key element of its success, as well as its versatility (…) And the library, as a location and concept, has shared this mutability.” Libraries It is, in the end, a story of everyone, for everyone. Although many still ignore it.

 
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