ATG Book of the Week: The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History

meaning of the libraryTitle: The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History
Editor: Alice Crawford
ISBN: 9780691166391; eBook: ISBN: 9781400865741,  $35.00  (£24.95) 
Princeton, NJ,: Princeton University Press, 2015

From Greek and Roman times to the digital era, the library has remained central to knowledge, scholarship, and the imagination. Generously illustrated, The Meaning of the Library examines this key institution of Western culture. Tracing what the library has meant since its beginning, examining how its significance has shifted, and pondering its importance in the twenty-first century, significant contributors—including the librarian of the Congress and the former executive director of the HathiTrust—present a cultural history of the library.

Whether relishing an account of the Alexandrian Library or a look at the stylish railway libraries of nineteenth-century England, readers will find a sparkling survey of the library through time. Here, too, are the imagined libraries of fiction, poetry, and film, from Scheherazade’s stories to The Name of the Rose and beyond. In an informative introduction, Alice Crawford sets out the book’s purpose and scope, and an international array of scholars, librarians, writers, and critics offer vivid perspectives about the library through their chosen fields. Contributors to this collection include David Allan, James Billington, Robert Crawford, Robert Darnton, Stephen Enniss, Richard Gameson, Edith Hall, Laura Marcus, Andrew Pettegree, John Sutherland, Marina Warner, and John Wilkin.

A landmark collection, The Meaning of the Library addresses the significance of the library—both physical and virtual—in the past and present, and will appeal to readers, librarians, and all who are interested in this vital institution’s heritage and ongoing legacy.



“[F]or both scholar and general reader, comprehensive bibliographic notes constitute a multilingual gold mine of historical resources on libraries.”–Booklist




“This wide-ranging survey of the long and tumultuous history of libraries contains at least a dozen tantalizing bits of information per page. I was fascinated and enriched. And because these essays began as lectures delivered in a library, they illustrate beautifully one of the library’s most important roles–as a stage set for writers to share what they’ve learned about various subjects, including Roman bathhouses, Victorian fumigators, plunder, lust, and the eighteenth-century librarian upon whose death, it was said, ‘The books are grievin, ‘mang themselves.'”–Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All


“The Meaning of the Library covers the history of the library from antiquity to the present day. This is a very good collection of essays.”–Colin Burrow, editor of Metaphysical Poetry


“The library as a topic is currently of increasing cultural interest. I enjoyed The Meaning of the Library and learned a lot from the book’s eclectic and interesting mix of essays.”–Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford


Pin It

Leave a Reply