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Early Libraries: 400s - 1400s CE

Let's begin with an overview of the early libraries section of the course. Watch the Early Libraries video at Vimeo.

CodexEarly libraries existed during what is known as the Middle Ages and includes the Classical and Medieval times.

Dunlap (1972) suggests that rather than thinking of this time period as a "cultural void" between the ancient libraries and the modern times, think of early libraries as a bridge. In the past, the time between the 7th century and 10th century was referred to as the "Dark Ages". However historians today have found it to be a time of culture and transition. Monasteries were busy reproducing beautiful manuscripts.

The image on the right shows a codex from the 1300s.

Then, between the 11th and 13th centuries are the medieval civilizations with the development of Gothic cathedrals. Early libraries end with the Renaissance.

However this approach focuses on only one area of the world. Isolated monasteries were established in many areas of the world and Greek literature thrived in the East in places like Constantinople.

Wells Cathedral, Somerset Medieval Libraries, 1897 PD

The photo above shows the library at Wells Cathedral. It was typical of this time period.

Resources

Dunlap, Leslie W. (1972). Readings in Library History. R.R. Bowker Co.


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