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An Unquiet History

Matthew Battles (Author)


"Splendidly articulate, informative and provoking....A book to be savored and gone back to."—Baltimore Sun

On the survival and destruction of knowledge, from Alexandria to the Internet. Through the ages, libraries have not only accumulated and preserved but also shaped, inspired, and obliterated knowledge. Matthew Battles, a rare books librarian and a gifted narrator, takes us on a spirited foray from Boston to Baghdad, from classical scriptoria to medieval monasteries, from the Vatican to the British Library, from socialist reading rooms and rural home libraries to the Information Age.

He explores how libraries are built and how they are destroyed, from the decay of the great Alexandrian library to scroll burnings in ancient China to the destruction of Aztec books by the Spanish—and in our own time, the burning of libraries in Europe and Bosnia.

Encyclopedic in its breadth and novelistic in its telling, this volume will occupy a treasured place on the bookshelf next to Baker's Double Fold, Basbanes's A Gentle Madness, Manguel's A History of Reading, and Winchester's The Professor and the Madman.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • June 2004
  • ISBN 978-0-393-32564-5
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 256 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“One might expect a book that...[is] huge in scope and academically dry....Library is neither....[An] engaging book.” — BookPage

“A must for every home or institutional collection.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Elegantly written....A great read, flowing over many time periods and geographic regions.” — Library Journal

“Battles turns an all-seeing telescope on the most spectacular galaxy in our intellectual heavens—that magnificent constellation of books we call a library—and brings into focus the brightest stars and blackest holes in its dynamic history.” — Richard Lederer, author of A Man of My Words

Also by Matthew Battles All

  1. Book CoverLibrary: An Unquiet History


  2. Book CoverPalimpsest: A History of the Written Word


All Subjects