Bibliotheca Alexandrina

An imposing, luxurious oddly shaped building hosts the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the New Library of Alexandria. We read on its website that it is dedicated to recapture the spirit of the original, once the largest in the world. This fascinating new Library is aimed to be the World’s window on Egypt; Egypt’s window on the world; a leading institution of the digital age; and above all, a center for learning, tolerance, dialogue and understanding.”.

The New Bibliotheca contains a library that can hold millions of books; a center for the Internet and its archive; 6 specialized libraries; 3 Museums for Antiquities, Manuscripts and The history of science; a Planetarium; an ALEXploratorium for children’s exhibitions; 2 permanent exhibitions; 6 art galleries for temporary exhibitions; a conference center; 7 research institutes covering: Manuscripts; Documentation of heritage; Calligraphy and writing; Information sciences; Mediterranean and Alexandrian studies; Arts Center; scientific research; and a discussion forum.

Check out the Wikipedia’s site on the original Library to learn more about it and even see a sweet virtual reconstruction, of what it must have looked like.

I recommend two good books on the subject – Luciano Canfora’s ‘The Vanished Library’ and, for the bilingual, ‘Historia Universal de la Destruccion de los Libros’ by Fernando Baez. Mr. Baez points out at 3 probable causes for its destruction : (1) the Romans (Theophile and Julius Caesar have been blamed by different authors); (2) earthquakes (“at least 23 devastated Alexandria between 320 and 1303”) and (3) neglect, as librarians chose to go to more peaceful cities.

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