Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Document Type



Though it was Alexandria's Pharos lighthouse that was counted among the Seven Wonders of the World, Ancient Alexandria was a city in which wonders abounded. The city featured wide boulevards laid out in a grid, and buildings constructed of granite and marble. Some say that Alexander himself had a hand in planning this great city. One of the most notable wonders of the city was the Great Library of Alexandria (hereinafter Great Library or Library), an institution which has assumed legendary proportions in the mythos of western civilization. However, institutions which assume mythological proportions are often obscured by the very legends they generate. While the Great Library's cultural and intellectual achievements resonate to this day, many do not and cannot separate the true nature and history of the Great Library from the fog of legend that surrounds it. Was the Great Library a library in the modern professional sense of the word, or perhaps it was a kind of proto-library containing a large collection of texts? In order to explore these questions and to bring clarity to the topic of the Great Library, this paper will examine the founding and history of the Great Library and illustrate its purpose and philosophy. Finally this paper will then analyze the Great Library according to established library criteria. Section I will provide an overview of the founding, intellectual achievements, and fall of the Great Library. Section II will review the characteristics of the Great Library according to modern professional criteria.