Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963992 | Print ISBN: 9781412906784 | Online ISBN: 9781412963992| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Libraries, History of
Christopher J. Levesque
Libraries developed soon after the development of writing itself. Although the first libraries were primarily storehouses of government records, they quickly expanded to include religious texts, reference materials, and literature. Libraries require not only the support of both religious and secular authorities, but also a literate populace to create and use the items located in them. This entry provides a brief historical overview. The Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia developed the cuneiform method of writing, with clay tablets as the preferred medium for the creation of written documents. The earliest Mesopotamian libraries date to 2,500 BCE, as in the examples of collections of tablets found near Nippur. Ancient Greece introduced the first libraries open to public use. The impetus for the creation of public libraries in ancient Greece was the alteration of the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides by performers and copyists in the years after their deaths. The Athenian ...