Archive for December 2005

Foreboding in the Law Library of Achilles

The legend has it that one of the Ptolemies ordained that the police would seize every book brought by each traveler into Alexandria, have it swiftly copied by scribes standing by at the library, and then return it to its owner, much as the Ptolemies’ successors in the field of American law, the West folks in Minnesota, engorge and process each new addition to the agreed legal canon. But centralizing all that information also magnified its exposure. We know the titles of many books that did not make it down through time to us because they were “preserved” in just such a fashion at Alexandria.