One of the most approved materials for writing on, before the invention of paper, was the thin rind between the solid wood and the outside bark of certain trees. This substance is in Latin called liber, which came in time to signify also a “book.” Hence our library, the place for books; librarian, the keeper of books; and the French livre, a book.
Some interesting facts concerning books and libraries will be found in Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature.
A circulating library. A library from which the books may be borrowed and taken by readers to their homes under certain restrictions.
The first public library of Rome was founded by Asinus Pollio; the second, called the Palatine, by Augustus. The royal library of the Fatimites of Egypt contained 100,000 manuscripts, splendidly bound. (Gibbon.)
The library of the Ommiades of Spain contained 600,000 volumes, 44 of which were catalogues. (Gibbon.) There were seventy public libraries in the kingdom of Andalusia. (Gibbon.)
When the monastery of Croydon was burnt, in 1091, its library consisted of 900 volumes, 300 of which were very large. (Ingulphus.)
The Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, founded by Louis XIV., is the largest library in the world. It contains above 1,400,000 volumes, 500,000 pamphlets, 175,000 manuscripts, 300,000 maps and charts, 150,000 coins and medals, 1,400,000 engravings, contained in 10,000 volumes, and 100,000 portraits.
The Impériale, France, contains about 600,000 books, 500,000 pamphlets, and 85,000 manuscripts. The Munich Library contains about 600,000 books and 10,000 manuscripts.
The Vienna, about 500,000 books and 20,000 manuscripts.
The Vatican, about 200,000 books and 40,000 manuscripts. The Imperial Library of Russia, about 650,000 books and 21,000 manuscripts. The Copenhagen Library, about 500,000 books and 15,000 manuscripts.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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