Dust it shall be but dust in love

In Elias Canetti’s 1935 novel Die Blendung (Auto da Fe), Peter Kien, the scholar who in the last pages sets fire to himself and to his books when he feels that the outside world has become too unbearably intrusive, incarnates every inheritor of the Library, as a reader whose very self is enmeshed in the books he possesses and who, like one of the ancient Alexandrian scholars, must himself become dust in the night when the library is no more. Dust indeed, the poet Francisco de Quevedo noted, early in the seventeenth century. And then added, with the same faith in the survival of the spirit that the Library of Alexandria embodied, “Dust it shall be, but dust in love.”

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

A warning that all we gather may be lost

We can roam the bloated stacks of
the Library of Alexandria, where all imagination and
knowledge are assembled; we can recognize in its
destruction the warning that all we gather will be lost,
but also that much of it can be collected again; we can
learn from its splendid ambition that what was one man’s
experience can become, through the alchemy of words,
the experience of all, and how that experience, distilled
once again into words, can serve each singular reader for
some secret, singular purpose.

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

The library as protective fortress

By housing as many books as possible under one single roof, the librarians of Alexandria also tried to protect them from the risk of destruction that might result if left in what were deemed to be less caring hands (an argument adopted by many Western museums and libraries today). Therefore, as well as being an emblem of man’s power to act through thought, the Library became a monument intended to defeat death, which, as poets tell us, puts an end to memory.

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

Paying attention to how the pieces are connected

And so the size of my library—containing all that I have read and reread and aspire to read—can grow and shrink and change even as the number of books on the shelves remain the same. The shelves hold not only the books of my choosing, but also the snippets and fragments that I have plucked or added or paraphrased or argued about. They sit between each other, between you and I, bound together by the strength of our connections.

—Allen Tan The Readmill Blog

Reading revolution

The phrase “reading revolution” was probably coined by German historian Rolf Engelsing. He certainly made it popular. Engelsing was trying to describe something he saw in the 18th century: a shift from “intensive” reading and re-reading of very few texts to “extensive” reading of many, often only once. Think of reading the Bible vs reading the newspaper. Engelsing called this shift a “Lesenrevolution,” lesen being the German equivalent of reading. He thought he had found when modern reading emerged, as we’d recognize it today, and that it was this shift that effectively made us modern readers.

10 Reading Revolutions Before E Books – Tim Carmody