Ancient Libraries


Ancient Libraries, an evolving Bibliography

[last updated 5/6/02]

William A. Johnson

General: Books and major articles

Horst Blanck, Das Buch in der Antike.Munich, 1992. The latter half is on libraries; a reasonable recent summary, but uncritical in acceptance of archaeological speculations.

C. E. Boyd, Public Libraries and Literary Culture in Ancient Rome. Chicago, 1915. A fundamental collection of Roman data, including some useful analysis. On reserve.

R. Cagnat, Les bibliotheques municipales romaines. Mem. Acc. Inscr. et Belles Lettres. XXXVIII, 1909 (or 1906?) pp. 8-30.

Chr. Callmer, “Antike Bibliotheke,” Skrifter utgivna av svenska institutet I rom 10 [= Opuscula Archaeologica 3] (1944) 145-193. A fundamental compilation of the archaeological data. Xerox on reserve.

Lionel Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World. Yale, 2001. Recent and reliable if unthorough and rather superficial. On reserve.

G. Cavallo (ed.), Le biblioteche nel mondo antico e medievale, 1988. On reserve.

Th. K. Dix, Private and Public Libraries at Rome in the First Century B.C. 1986. Diss. Michigan.

K. Dziatzko, “Bibliotheken” RE 3 (1899) 409ff.

R. Fehrle, Das Bibliothekswesen in alten Rom. Wiesbaden, 1986. On reserve.

Bernt Götze. "Antike Bibliotheken" JdI 52 (1937) 223-247. At Carrie's carrell. Some fundamental analysis of the evidence, with a good conspectus of site plans and reconstructions.

L. L. Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library. 1984. Diss. Texas.

E. Makowiecka, The Origin and Evolution of the Architectural Form of the Roman Library. 1978. On reserve.

J. Platthy, Sources on the earliest Greek libraries with the Testimonia. 1968. A fundamental collection of textual evidence. On reserve.

F. Poland, Öffentliche Bibliotheken in Griechenland und Kleinasien. Festschrift Förstemann. Leipzig 1894. Cited by Wakowiecka for a collection of data on Greek temple libraries at pp. 10-12, so perhaps a useful compilation of literary evidence despite its age? Non vidi.

V. M. Strocka, “Römische Bibliotheken,” Gymnasium 88 (1981) 298-329. A fundamental collection of data. Xerox on reserve.

C. Wendel, W. Göber, “Das griech.-röm. Altertums” in Handbuch der Bibliothekswissenschaft III 1955, 51-145. On reserve.

C. Wendel, Die bauliche Entwicklung der antiken Bibliothek. Centralblatt für Bibliothekswissenschaft, 63, 1949.

General: Articles

M. Burzachechi, “Richerche epigrafiche sulle antiche bibliotheche del mondo greco,” RAL 18 (1963).

Th. Keith Dix. “Public libraries at Rome. Ideology and reality.” AAPhA 1988 : 89.

M. Guerrini, ed. Il linguaggio della biblioteca : scritti in onore di Diego Maltese. Firenze : Ed. Regione Toscana, 1994. 912 p. en 2 vol. (Toscana beni librari ; 4). [??]

N. Horsfall, “Empty shelves on the Palatine” G & R 40 (1993) 58-67. . • Augustan authors appear to have recognized the possibility of a Roman classic on the shelves of the Palatine library in the Alexandrian tradition of literary classification and were likely spurred to literary production by the perception of the library as needing to be filled (Horace, Epist. 2, 1. 217-219). This challenge explains the claim, common in their poetry, of achieving this or that literary feat.

G. H. R. Horsley. “The inscriptions from the so-called ‘library’ at Cremna.” AS 1987 XXXVII : 49-80.

G. W. Houston, “A Revisionary Note on Amm. 14,6,18,” Library Quarterly 58 (1988) 258-64.

H. J. Marrou, "Vie intellectuelle au Forum de Trajan et au Forum d'Auguste," Mel. d. Archeol. et d'Histoire XLIX (1932).

A. J. Marshall, “Library Resources and Creative Writing at Rome,” Phoenix 30 (1976) 352-64. A useful set of starting points for analysis of the topic.

R. Nicolai, "Le biblioteche dei ginnasi," in Nuovi annali della Scuola Speciale per Archivisti e Bibliotecare 1 (1987) 17-48. On the relationship between library and gymnasium in the Hellenic world.

Raymond J. Starr “Trimalchio's libraries.” Hermes 1987 CXV : 252-253.

Details and organization of libraries, physical and logistical

W. Binsfeld, “Lesepulte aus Neumagner Reliefs,” BJ 173 (1973) 201-206.

L. D. Bruce, “The procurator bibliothecarum,” Journal of Library History 18 (1983) 143-162.

G. W. Houston. “Onesimus the librarian.” ZPE 1996 (114) 205-208.

W. A. Oldfather, "The earliest recorded library regulation." The Library Quarterly 7 (1937).

L. Piacente, "Utenti e prestito di libri," Studi lat. e ital. 2 (1988) 49-64.

M. Seve, “Sure la taille des rayonnages” (on copses?) RPh 64 (1990) 173-179.

C. Wendel, "Der antike Bücherschrank," Nachrichten v.d. Akademie d. Wiss. in Göttingen 7 (1943) pp. 267-299.

Library in Alexandria

R. Blum, Kallimachos: The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography.  Wisconsin 1991 (trans. and updated by H. H. Wellisch from the 1977 German original). Useful but not always reliable. On reserve.

L. Canfora, The Vanished Library (1989; ital. ed. 1977). An historical novel, with however interesting speculations. On reserve.

Nina L.Collins. The library in Alexandria and the Bible in Greek. Brill, 2000.

J. A. Davison, “Literature and Literacy in Ancient Greece: Caging the Muses,” Phoenix 16 (1962) 219-233.

M. El-Abbadi, Life and Fate of the ancient library of Alexandria. 2nd ed. 1992.

P. M. Frazer, Ptolemaic Alexandria I, 1972, 305-335. Fundamental on the topic. On reserve.

R. MacLeod, ed. The Library of Alexandria, Centre of Learning in the Ancient World. London 2000. Some interesting essays. On reserve.

G. Mader, “The library of Alexandria.” Akroterion 1976 XXI N° 2 : 2-13. • Discussion of the history of the library and important stages in the development of its collection and administration, from its founding, possibly by Ptolemy II, to its destruction at the end of the 4th cent.

Müller-Graupa, “Museion,” RE 16 C (1933) 801-821.

E. A. Parsons, The Alexandrian Library, Glory of the Hellenic World. London, 1952. Very unreliable in analysis, old-fashioned in the worst sense. Included here more by way of warning than recommendation; but some useful collection of materials. On reserve.

R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship from the Beginnings to the Hellenistic Age. Oxford, 1968. Fundamental on the topic, a book everyone should know. In the reference collection of Burnam.

Friedrich Schmidt. Die Pinakes des Kallimachos. [Klassisch-Philologische Studien 1.] Berlin, 1922. Said to have the most complete collection of primary sources on the Alex. Library, but not in Burnam; in transit from ILL.

W. J. Slater, “Aristophanes of Byzantium on the Pinakes of Callimachus,” Phoenix 30 (1976) 234-241.

S. A. Takács. “Alexandria in Rome.” HSPh 1995 97 : 263-276. • On some political and religious connections between Alexandria and Rome, especially the Mouseion and Serapeum with the establishment of libraries in 1st-cent.-B.C. Rome, and Alexandrian features of the Isiac religion appropriated by imperial households.

J. Thiem, “Library of Alexandria burnt. History of a symbol.” JHI 1979 XL : 507-526. • Examination of the history of the motif that the burning of the Library at Alexandria was a fortunate misfortune.

G. Weber, Dichtung u. höfische Gesellschaft: die Rezeption von Zeitgeschichte am Hof der ersten drei Ptolemäer. Hermes Einzelschriften 62.

Library in Pergamon

Bohn, Richard "Das Heiligtum der Athena Polias Nikephoros" in Altertümer von Pergamon 2 (1885) 56-75.

Callmer, Christian. "Antike Bibliotheken" Opuscula Archaeologica 3 (1944) 148-52.

Conze, Alexander "Die Pergamenische Bibliothek" in Sitzungsberichte der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 2 (1884) 1259-1270.

Dziatzko, K. Sammlung bibliotekswissenschaftlicher Arbeiten 10 (1896) 38-47.

Götze, Bernt. "Antike Bibliotheken" Jahrbuch des deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 52 (1937) 233-47.

W. Hoepfner on the Library in R. Dreyfus and E. Schraudolph edd., Pergamon: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar vol. 2, pp. 40-46.

Johnson, L.L. The Hellenistic and Roman Library. PhD. dissertation (Brown University 1984) 44-61.

Mackowiecka, Elzbieta. "The Origin and Evolution of Architectural Form of Roman Library" Studia antiqua (1978) 14-19.

Mielsch, H. "Die Bibliothek und die Kunstsammlung der Könige von Pergamon" AA 1995, 765-779.

W. Radt, Pergamon: Geschichte und Bauten einer antiken Metropole (Darmstadt 1999), esp. 165-168.

Strocka, V.M. "Römische Bibliotheken" Gymnasium 88 (1981) 302-304.

Wendel, K. Handbuch der Bibliothekswissenschaft 3 (1940) 21ff.

Sanctuary of Asklepios at Pergamon

Callmer, Christian. "Antike Bibliotheken" 175-6.

Deubner, O. Das Asklepieion von Pergamon. (Berlin 1938) 40-43.

Johnson, L.L. The Hellenistic and Roman Library. PhD. dissertation (Brown University 1984) 78-83.

Radt, W. Pergamon (Darmstadt 1999) 232-3.

Wendel, K. Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen. 55 (1938) 647-9.

Wendel, K. Handbuch d. Bibliothekswissenschaft 3 (1940) 27ff.

Wiegand, Th. "Zweiter Bericht über dis Ausgrabungen in Pergamon 1928-1932:Das Asklepieion" Abhandlungen d. preuss. Akad. d.

Libraries in Rome

J. Packer, The Forum of Trajan in Rome. 1997. 3 vols.

Boyd 1915.

Strocka 1981.

Fedeli's chapter in Cavallo 1988.

Takács 1995.

Libraries in Athens

An Overview:

E. Vranopoulos, “Libraries in Ancient Greece,” Archaiologia 18 (1986), 72-5.

H. A. Thompson, “Appendix: The Libraries of Ancient Athens,” in Contributions to Aegean Archeology: Studies in Honor of William A. McDonald. N. C. Wilkie and D. E. Coulson, eds. Center for Ancient Studies, University of Minnesota Publications in Ancient Studies, No. 1. University of Minnesota, 1985, 295-7.



Ancient Sources:

Plathy 28-35 & 90

Pausanias, Attica, I. 17.2

Apollodorus fr. 59 in Jacoby, FGrH II B, p. 1036 (Hesperia 43 (1974), 246)

Plutarch, Life of Theseus, 36.2

Secondary Lit.:

            on Plathy 90 (= IG II2 2363):

Wilamowitz, Analecta Euripidea. Berlin, 1875, 141, first proposed a connection between the book list and dedicatory ephebic inscriptions relative to the Ptolemaion.

R. J. Walker, Parnassus Biceps. Paris: G. Ficker, 1926.

E. J. Thomas, Review of Parnassus Biceps in CR 40 (1926), 215.

M. N. Tod, “Sidelights on Greek Philosophers,” JHS 77 (1957), 131-41, esp. 139-40.

R. Blum, Kallimachos: The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography. Trans. fr. German by H. H. Wellisch. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991, 191 and nn. 53-4.

L. Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2001, 58-9 and n. 57-9, p. 155.

            on Apollodorus:

R. E. Wycherley, The Stones of Athens. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978, 231-4, esp. 233.


E. Lippolis, “Tra il ginnasio di Tolomeo ed il Serapeion: la ricostruzione topografica de un quartiere monumentale di atene,” Ostraka 4 (1995), 43-67.

L. L. Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: studies pertaining to their architectural form. Thesis (Ph.D.): Brown University, 1984, 73.

J. Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens. New York and Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1971. s.v. “Gymnasium of Ptolemy,” 233-41.

H. A. Thompson, “Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1949,” Hesperia 19 (1950), 313-337.

idem, “Activity in the Athenian Agora: 1960-1965,” Hesperia 35 (1966), 37-54, esp. 40-8.

idem, “Activity in the Athenian Agora: 1966-1967,” Hesperia 37 (1968), 36-72, esp. 40-1.

Pantainos' Library


Ancient Sources:

Plathy, 36-7.

Secondary Lit.:

H. R. Goette, Athens, Attica and the Megarid: An archeological guide. London and New York: Routledge, 2001, 84-5.

L. L. Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: studies pertaining to their architectural form. Thesis (Ph.D.): Brown University, 1984, 25-30.

V. M. Strocka, “Römische Bibliotheken,” Gymnasium 88 (1981), 298-329, esp. 304-6.

J. Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens. New York and Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1971. s.v. “Pantainos, Library Of,” 432-8.

H. A. Thompson, “Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1953,” Hesperia 23 (1954), 31-67, esp. 62-5.

G. P. Stevens, “A Doorsill from the Library of Pantainos,” Hesperia 18 (1949), 269-74 and pl. 65.

A. W. Parsons, “A Family of Philosophers at Athens and Alexandria,” Hesperia Suppl. 8 (1949): Commemorative Studies in Honor of T. Leslie Shear, 268-72 and pl. 26.

H. A Thompson, “The Excavation of the Athenian Agora: 1940-46,” Hesperia 16 (1947), 193-213, esp. 202-3 and pls. 44, 49.

B. D. Meritt, “Greek Inscriptions,” Hesperia 15 (1946), 169-253, esp. 233, no. 64.

T. L. Shear, “The Campaign of 1935,” Hesperia 5 (1936), 1-42, esp. 41-2 and fig. 40.

idem, “The Campaign of 1933,” Hesperia 4 (1935), 313-339, esp. 330-2 and fig. 19.


Library of Hadrian

Ancient Sources:

Plathy 38-43

Secondary Lit.:

H. R. Goette, Athens, Attica and the Megarid: An arhceological guide. London and New York: Routledge, 2001, 90-1 and nn. 113-4.

M. T. Boatwright, Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000, esp. 153-7.

A. Spetsieri-Choremi, “Library of Hadrian at Athens: Recent Finds,” Ostraka 4 (1995), 137-47.

D. Willers, Hadrians Panhellenisches Programm. Antike Kunst, Beiheft XVI. Basel, 1990, 14-21, figs. 1-2, and pls. 1, 1-4.

W. Martini, “Zur Benennung Hadriansbibliothek in Athen,” in Ledendinge Alterumswissenschaft, Festgabe zur Vollendung des 70 Lebensjahres von H. Vetters. Vienna, 1985, 188-91 and pl. 22. -- Couldn’t get this one.

L. L. Johnson, The Hellenistic and Roman Library: studies pertaining to their architectural form. Thesis (Ph.D.): Brown University, 1984, 74-7.

M. T. Boatwright, “Further Thoughts on Hadrianic Athens,” Hesperia 52 (1983), 173-6.

T. L. Shear, Jr., “Athens: From City-State to Provicincial Town,” Hesperia 50 (1981), 356-77, esp. 374-7.

V. M. Strocka, “Römische Bibliotheken,” Gymnasium 88 (1981), 298-329, esp. 318-20.

J. Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens. New York and Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1971. s.v. “Hadrian, Library of,” 244-52.

C. Callmer, “Antike Bibliotheken,” Skrifter utgvina av svenska institutet I rom 10 [= Opuscula Archaeologica 3] (1944), 145-193, esp. 172-4.

H. A Thompson and K. Kourouniotes, “The Pnyx in Athens,” Hesperia 1 (1932), 90-217, esp. 187 and fig. 55 (= Travlos, fig. 324, p. 252).

M. A. Sisson, “The Stoa of Hadrian at Athens,” Papers of the British School at Rome 11 (1929), 50-72.

  1. W.M. Leake, Topography of Athens 2. London, 1841, 258-61.

Libraries at Ephesus and Environs

Library of Celsus

Detailed bibliography, notes, and images

Callmer 167-171.

Götze 232ff. Quite good; taken into account by the final excavation report (FE V/1; Wilberg below).

*Vedat Idil. "Die römischen Bibliotheken in Kleinasian: die Celsusbibliothek in Ephesos und die Bibliothek in Nysa," in 100 Jahre Österreichische Forschungen in Ephesos pp. 437-441. Surprisingly amateurish. The 3rd volume of the same book contains the complete, updated plans for the city of Ephesos, which is of course quite useful.

V. M. Strocka, "Zur Datierung der Celsusbibliothek" in Proceedings of the Xth International Congress of Classical Archaeology 1973 (1978) 893ff.

H. Vetters. Several years of annual reports on the Ephesos excavations and restoration in the 1970s ("Vorläufiger Grabungsbericht"). In JÖAI. The original excavation reports will be found in ÖJh 7 and 8 (194, 1905), by R. Heberdey; and on the front, W. Wilberg, "Die Fassade der Bibiliothek in Ephesus," ÖJh 11 (1908) 118ff.

W. Wilberg, et al. Forschungen in Ephesos V 1 (Österreichischen Archäologischen Institut Wien, 1953). Report of the original excavators. This entire volume is devoted to the library, and is the principal source of hard data. This is the fundamental work.

Library at Nysa

Callmer, Christian. "Antike Bibliotheken" 171-2

Diest, Walther v. "Nysa ad Maeandrum nach Forschungen und Aufnahmen in den Jahren 1907 und 1909".

JdI Erg. 10 (1910) 49-51, tafeln 8-10.

Idil, Vedat. "Die römischen Bibliotheken in Kleinasien: die Celsusbibliothek in Ephesos und die Bibliothek in Nysa". 100 Jahre österreichische Forschungen in Ephesos (1999). 437-441.

Johnson, L.L. The Hellenistic and Roman Library. PhD. dissertation (Brown University 1984) 68-72.

Robert, Louis. "La bibliothèque de Nysa de Carie" Hellenica 1 (1940) 144-148.

Wendel, K. Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen. 55 (1938) 646.

Library at Thamugadi (Timgad, Algeria)

Detailed notes and images

*R. Cagnat, et al. Timgad, une cite africaine sous l'Empire Romain. Paris, 1905. The final excavation report; predates however the discovery of the inscription identifying the library (which is here mostly referred to as the Salle demi-circulaire. Though often repeated, it is not true that Cagnat did not consider seriously the possiblity that the building was a library: the plan identifies the building as "edifice demi-circulaire (bibliotheque?)."

*R. Cagnat. Carthage, Timgad, Tébessa et les villes antiques de l'Afrique du Nord. Paris, 1927. An alarmingly silly book, with mindbendingly circular reasoning.

*Homer F. Pfeiffer, "The Roman Library at Timgad," Mem. Americ. Acad. Rome 9 (1931) 157-65. This later summary takes into account conclusions reached after Cagnat's excavation report, most esp. the evidence from Ephesos and that of the inscription that identifies the building. Reasonably full data and analysis.

*Makowiecka 1978 has a couple of important corrections to Pfeiffer: see pp. 86ff.

*Callmer 1944 pp. 181f.

*Götze 1937, pp. 240f.

L. L. Johnson 1984 pp. 31-40.

P. Romanelli, Topografia e archeologia dell'Africa Romana, Enciclopedia Classica sez. III: Arch. e storia dell'arte classica vol. X: Archeologia t. VII. Torino 1970. P. 203 [from Vössing]

*Strocka 1981 pp. 316f.

*Konrad Vössing, "Die öffentlichen Bibliotheken in Africa," Atti X convegno Africa Romana (1994) 169-183.

Other public libraries

C. A. Hanson, “Were there libraries in Roman Spain?” Libraries and Culture 24 (1989) 298-316.

A.D. F. el. Fakharani, “The library of Philadelphia (?) or the so-called temple on the Citadel Hill in Amman.” WZRostock 1975 XXIV : 533-554. • Das Gebäude, das bisher als Tempel bezeichnet wurde, zeigt Einzelheiten, wie sie bei Bibliotheken in der Zeit des Marcus Aurelius in Nachbarländern üblich waren. Die Reste einer Statue gehören wahrscheinlich zu einer Minerva. Das Gebäude kann durch eine Inschrift in die Zeit 169-180 n. Chr. datiert werden. Die Konstruktion der unteren Lagen kann bis in die Zeit des Augustus zurückreichen.

Private libraries


J. J. Phillips, The publication of books at Rome in the classical period. Diss. Yale. The evidence is collected, but the analysis is poor.

Herculaneum and Pompeii, Villa of the Papyri

J. Deiss, Herculaneum: Italy's Buried Treasure (1966) 54-6.

T. Dorandi, “La ‘Villa dei Papiri’ a Ercolano e la sua biblioteca" CPh 90 (1995) 168-182.

R. Ling, "The Architecture of Pompeii," JRA 4 (1991) 250-53.

L. Richardson, “The libraries of Pompeii.” Archaeology 1977 XXX : 394-402. • It is likely that a room in the Casa del Menandro, which had large pieces of furniture against its walls, was used as a private library. The so-called Sacellum Larum Publicorum on the east side of the forum at Pompeii was probably a public library.

On evidence for private libraries in Africa, see Konrad Vössing, "Die öffentlichen Bibliotheken in Africa," Atti X convegno Africa Romana (1994) 169 n. 3.

Middle East Comparanda

S. Parpola, “Assyrian Library Records,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 42 (1983) 1-29.

O. Pedersén. Archives and Libraries in the Ancient Near East 1500-300 B.C. Maryland, 1998. On reserve.

Ernst Posner, Archives in the Ancient World. 1972.

D. T. Potts, “Before Alexandria: Libraries in the Ancient Near East,” in MacLeod 2000 (on reserve). A recent and seemingly reliable summary of the current state of affairs.

K. Veenhof, ed. Cuneiform Archives and Libraries. 1986.

M. Weitemeyer, “Archive and Library Technique in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Libri 6 (1956) 217-238.

On the ancient book, ancient readers, ancient literary culture (a very few starting points)

Th. Birt, Das antike Buchwesen in seiner Verhältnis zur Literatur.  Berlin, 1882. Old, but remains fundamental.

Horst Blanck, Das Buch in der Antike.Munich, 1992. A good recent summary.

William V. Harris. Ancient Literacy. Harvard, 1986.

Th. Kleberg. Buchhandel und Verlagswesen in der Antike. 1967.

W. A. Johnson, “Towards a Sociology of Reading in Classical Antiquity,” American Journal of Philology 121 (2000) 593-627.  And see now Ibid., Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire. Oxford, 2010.

Elaine Fantham, Roman Literary Culture. 1996.

Elizabeth Rawson, Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic. 1985.

R. J. Starr, "The Circulation of Literary Texts in the Roman World." CQ 37 (1987): 213-223.

E. G. Turner, rev. P. J. Parsons. 1987. Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. 2nd edition. BICS Supplement 46. London. Excellent summary of the physical characteristics of the ancient book, with many plates and annotated bibliography.

Note: This bibliography was assembled for a course taught at the University of Cincinnati in 2002.