Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Curses

Before electromagnetic security strips and RFID devices, ancient texts were susceptible to theft. To discourage theft and mutilation, many colophons contained curses. A curse from Ninevah states:

Whoever removes [the tablet], writes his name in the place of my name, may Ashur and Ninlil, angered and grim, cast him down, erase his name, his seed, in the land. (Casson, 2001, p.12)

Others were more discreet: “He who fears Anu, Enlil, and Ea will return it to the owner’s house the same day” and “He who fears Anu and Antu will take care of it and respect it” (Casson, 2001, p.13).
Because these tablets were made of clay, and thus easily vandalized, there were specific curses to protect against such acts: “In the name of Nabu and Marduk, do not rub out the text!” A more detailed curse to prevent vandalism went as follows:

He who breaks this tablet or puts it in water or rubs it until you cannot recognize it [and] cannot make it to be understood, may Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Adad and Ishtar, Bel, Nergal, Ishtar of Ninevah, Ishtar of Arbela, Ishtar of Bit Kidmurri, the gods of heaven and earth and the gods of Assyria, may all these curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dog’s mouth” (Casson, 2001, pp. 13-14).
While these curses are interesting and somewhat comical today, one has to think about what a literate Assyrian would have thought at the time. Further, what do curses like these say about the importance of written texts (e.g., books)? I submit that the ancients revered them, the same we do today. In facts, bibliophiles may be as old as the book itself.

Casson, L. (2001). Libraries in the ancient world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Large Print?

A library in Kansas City, Kansas.



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leabharlann (library) +‎ -aí


leabharlannaí m. (genitive leabharlannaí, nominative plural leabharlannaithe)
  1. librarian


Derived terms

Monday, January 21, 2013

Early Roman Public Libraries

Early Roman Public Libraries
     Rome’s first public library was established by Asinius Pollio. Pollio was a lieutenant of Julius Caesar and one of his most ardent supporters. After his military victory in Illyria, Pollio had enough fame and fortune to create what Julius Caesar had sought for a long time: a public library to increase the prestige of Rome and rival the one in Alexandria(Casson, 2001; Ewald, 2004; Buchanan, 2012).

     Pollios’s library, the Anla Libertatis (Ewald, 2004, p.9), and housed in the Atrium Libertatis, was centrally located near the Roman Forum. It was the first to employ an architectural design that separated works into Greek and Latin. All subsequent Roman public libraries will have this design (Casson, 2001, p. 80). Inside were numerous busts of literary greats of the pasts and one living author, the polymath M. Terentius Varro (Buchanan, 2012, p. 61). Nothing remains of Pollio’s library today (Casson, 2001, p. 80).

     At the conclusion of Rome’s civil wars following the death of Mark Antony in 30 B.C., the Emporer Augustus sought to reconstruct many of Rome’s damaged buildings. During this construction, Augustus created two more public libraries. The first was the library of the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, often called the Palatine library, and the second was the library of the Porticus of Octaviae (Casson, 2001, p. 81; Buchanan, 2012, p. 61).
(The library on the Palatine hill. Courtesy of

     The Palatine library was completed in 28 B.C. and was steps away from the home of Augustus. A few years later, the library at the Porticus of Octaviae, a square named in honor of Augustus' sister Octavia who died in 23 B.C., was built in the southern part of the Campus Martius, more centrally located and just west of the Forum (Casson, 2001, p.81). Both these libraries followed the architectural design by Pollio and divided their Greek and Latin works into separate rooms (Buchanen, 2012, p.61).

     Two more libraries were added by the Emperor Tiberius on Palatine Hill (Casson, 2001, p.84) and one by Vespasian after 70 A.D. Vespasian’s library was constructed in the Forum of Peace and became one of Rome’s principal libraries (Buchanan, 2012, pp. 61-62). The Bibliotheca Pacis was built along the traditional model and had two large halls with rooms for Greek and Latin libraries containing the works of Galen and Lucius Aelius.

    One of the best preserved was the ancient Ulpian Library built by the Emperor Trajan. Completed in 112/113 A.D., the Ulpian Library was part of Trajan’s Forum built on the Capitoline Hill (Ewald, 2004, p.10; Buchanan, 2012, p.62). Trajan’s Column separated the Greek and Latin rooms which faced each other (Casson, p.61). The structure was approximately fifty feet high with the peak of the roof reaching almost seventy feet (Houston, 2008).

(Photo retrieved from
These public libraries were essential to Roman culture (Murray, 2009, pp.20-21). Literacy was important part of civil life in Rome in order to keep the administration of a large empire efficient(Lyons, 2011, p.15).

Buchanan, S. (2012). Designing the Research Commons: Classical Models for School Libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 18(1), 56-69.
Casson, L. (2001). Libraries in the ancient world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ewald, L. A. (2004). Library Culture in Ancient Rome, 100 B.C. - A.D. 400. Kentucky Libraries, 68(1), 9-11.
Houston, G. W. (2008). Tiberius and the Libraries: Public Book Collections and Library Buildings in the Early Roman Empire. Libraries & The Cultural Record, 43(3), 247-269.
Lyons, M. (2011). Books: A living history. London: Thames and Hudson.
Murray, S.A.P.(2009). The Library: An illustrated history. New York: Sky Horse Publishing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wikipedia? Pretty Accurate

Recent research presents an interesting view on Wikipedia that challenges traditionally held beliefs, including those of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales who stated that the site should not be cited for academic purposes (Clauson, 2008, p. 1815).  The epistemological approach by Fallis (2008) was an interesting study of the usefulness of Wikipedia compared to other available sites.  This methodology is different than the approach taken by Giles (2005) which compared Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica which found that they were comparable.  The methodology of Clauson (2008) evaluated the information on Wikipedia to an authoritative medical database and found that it, too, compared favorably. 

Royal and Kapila’s (2009) study from an LIS perspective found that Wikipedia performed well although there were some biases detected.  This conflicted with two other LIS studies, Cronin, 2005 and Gorman, 2007 (as cited in Fallis, 2008) that found Wikipedia unreliable.  Overall, the consensus was that Wikipedia was reliable, errors were corrected quickly, but that its information was incomplete. (see e.g., Clauson, 2008; but see Hjorland, 2011). 

The overall conclusion by Clauson is the best evaluation of Wikipedia:  that it serves as an excellent “point of engagement” (Clauson, 2008, p. 1815) for initiating research. 


Brown, A. (2011).Wikipedia as a Data Source for Political Scientists: Accuracy and Completeness of Coverage. Political Science, 2:339-343. 

Clauson, K., Polen, H., Boulos, M.N.K., and Dzenowagis, J.H. (2008). Scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy ,42 :1814-1821. 

Fallis, D, (2008). Toward an epistemology of Wikipedia.  Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59: 1662-1674. 

Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head-to-head. Nature, 438: 900-901. 

Hjørland, Birger. (2011). Evaluation of an information source illustrated by a case study: Effect of screening for breast cancer. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62:1892–1898. 

Royal, C., & Kapila, D. (2009). What's on Wikipedia, and what's not … ?: Assessing completeness of information. Social Science Computer Review, 27: 138-148.

Friday, January 4, 2013


It's been 17 years since I last went to school full-time.  School starts at the USF SLIS on January 7th this year and I am already behind.  How?  For the first week of school I have 28 reading assignments.  If they were all just 10 pages each that would only be 280 pages.  Easy.

Unfortunately, they're not.  Some are 30 page chapters, others are 15 page journal articles.

Oh well. I'm not complaining, just explaining.