The Library at Hadrian’s Villa

For those who may be interested, I took a trip to Hadrian’s Villa recently, took some pictures and put them on my Picasa Album. The Maritime Theater and the Canopus are simply stunning. Some of the most beautiful works of art from classical times were found there. Hadrian’s Villa included a library and I took a few pictures.

At the Museum of Roman Civilization (Museo della Civiltà Romana), they made a  reconstruction of this site.

If you compare this with my picture of the actual location, and zoom in, you may be able to visualize it. When I took my picture, I was standing in the same location as in the picture in the Museo, but the Museo view is from the center. I was standing a bit to the right.

Here I added a few helps to orient how the library was.

Here is a view of the other side of the library. You can see the column bases and the cabinet niches where the scrolls were stored.

This next picture is a closer view of one of the niches that held a cabinet with the scrolls.

How would the scrolls have been shelved? Here are a couple of possibilities.

They may have also been in baskets.

Both from: “The care of books / John Willis Clark. — Cambridge : at the University Press, 1901.” (Project Gutenburg version)

How would people have used the books?

They unrolled them with the right hand and re-rolled them with the left hand, so they would see a type of “page” similar to what we see in a book. They didn’t hold them up and down and scroll forever like we can do with a webpage.

The scrolls themselves had little tags on them that the Romans called indices, but the Greeks called “sillyboi”. This was not a catalog but a kind of book number that also had author, title and other information. Remember, the Romans did not have title pages.

Finally, who made the little tags and pasted them on the scrolls? Who kept everything in order?

Library slaves of course. Cicero discusses this with his friend Atticus. (He lived 100 years before Hadrian, but probably not that much had changed) “Be sure to come, and, as you love me, see about the library slaves.” Letters to Atticus 4.4b and 4.5.

Perhaps not all that much has changed. …

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