Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: La Biblioteca di Alessandria

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Alexandra Trachsel)

Monica Berti, Virgilio Costa, La Biblioteca di Alessandria: storia di un paradiso perduto. Ricerche di filologia, letteratura e storia 10. Roma: Edizioni Tored, 2010.

The study on the Library of Alexandria presented in this book is based on the results of the current research projects of the two co-authors. Both scholars are working on fragmentary texts from the Hellenistic period and have edited collections of fragments from ancient authors where the question of the selection and transmission of texts is crucial.1 In addressing this question, the authors have been brought to focus also on the function and the impact of the Library of Alexandria in processes of selection and transmission. Furthermore, both authors are developing their own projects in the field of digital humanities2 and this is an additional reason, as they admit themselves, for their scholarly focus on the Library of Alexandria. The link between these two topics is clearly stated in the first lines of the book and gets fully developed in the last chapter, entitled "Ritorno ad Alessandria." In between, the study offers a very wide panorama, based on an up-to-date bibliography, including both the process which led to the creation of the Library of Alexandria and the activity carried out within this institution. Another distinctive feature of this study, which differentiates it from other works on the Library of Alexandria, is the fact that it is framed by two chapters of a more deliberative nature. The first is a summary of the controversial evidence from Antiquity about the location of the library , while the last one, as just mentioned, draws parallels between the modern projects of "universal libraries" in digital form, such as Europeana and Google Books, and their Alexandrian model from Antiquity.

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