Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity
by George W. Houston
(UNC Press, 2014)
Review in RBL by H. Gregory Snyder, Davidson College
Modern ideas about libraries, whether public or private, do not map so well over the ancient world, and Houston intends to redraw these lines. But even more deeply, Houston is trying to understand the way that knowledge is arranged: What were the mental habits and contours of ancient people when it came to organizing collections of texts? We re works of prose and poetry kept separate? medical and philosophical works? Were Greek and Latin texts kept separate? Were works arranged chronologically? alphabetically? by philosophical school? In the same way that someone might look at a digital music collection and make inferences about its owner, based on the items in the collection or the titles of playlists, Houston is trying to get at the 'intellectual personality' of ancient book collectors.