Libraries are the awsomest invention of humans ever. Okay, maybe the book comes first and then the library, but you know what I mean. And sure, I work in a library so might be a little biased, but you know, I would never have decided to go librarian unless I loved libraries to begin with. And since the invention of the internet and the ability to digitize things, what was once only available if you could afford the time off from work, the plane ticket, the hotel and food bill to get there and see the materials in person, is accessible from the comfort of you couch or bed or the beach. And libraries are the ones leading the charge to bring you all these things you never even knew existed. It’s an amazing thing that I don’t think libraries get enough appreciation even from me, a person who knows better!
The folks at Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida, have been working hard. Do you know what they have achieved? They have made available — for free — over 6,000 hisotrical children’s books. You can read The Three Little Kittens published in 1890. Or as many ABC books as your heart desires. Open Culture has an article about the collection and a brief history of children’s literature you might find interesting. Go have some fun browsing!
Today I had a brief moment of wondering whether the universe was trying to tell me something. Remember a couple weeks ago the mystery on the bus? No, it was never solved, but I imagined it as being a perfect opportunity for a mystery writer. And now I found another story that I thought, someone could really make something out of this! I still don’t think that someone is me, but I give the universe credit for trying.
This time the story is about libraries, specifically, the library at Alexandria and Pergamum. Have you ever heard about Pergamum? I don’t recall that I ever have. Located in Pergamon, what is now Bergama, Turkey, Pergamum was Alexandria’s biggest rival. It was a cold war of sorts with each city upping the ante by getting this scholar or that book.
Finally, Alexandria decided they were going to crush Pergamum once and for all and stopped all shipments of papyrus to the city. Without paper they surely weren’t going to be able to copy any books and the scholars weren’t going to be able to write any new ones. But necessity is the mother of invention, and they invented parchment.
Now parchment had actually already been invented, but Pergamum refined the process of turning animal skins into a writing surface. According to the wonderful article about this library rivalry, the Latin word for parchment is “pergamīnum.” Translated literally this means “the sheets of Pergamum.” Take that Alexandria!
Now wouldn’t that make a fantastic historical novel? Will one of you write it because I sure would love to read it!