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Liber

βίβλος, βιβλίον). A book; but among the Greeks and Romans, until a very late period, to be understood as referring to a roll. The modern book shape was used for the codex (τεῦχος) only, as explained in the article Codex. The Latin name liber meant originally the bark, rind, or bust of a tree, which was early used for writing material, as afterwards for the manufacture of paper (charta). (For an account of the writing materials used in ancient times, see Palaeography.) The same meaning is found in the Greek term βίβλος, properly “rind” or “bark” (βύβλος). For the preparation of papyrus of which the pages of books were made, see Papyrus. The pages (σελίδες, paginae) having been prepared, they were pasted together (conglutinatae) to form a long roll; but sometimes the pages were written first and pasted into a roll afterwards, for which purpose some people kept glutinatores (Ad Att. iv. 4). The writing was in columns, so that the lines of writing were parallel to the sides of the roll: on each page there was a column, and there was a blank space between each column. Down to the time of Caesar, however, it was the custom to write official documents transversa charta; that is to say, across the whole breadth of the roll, so that the lines of writing were at right angles to the sides of the roll. This explains the passage in Iul. 56. The shape and appearance of Greek and Roman books will be understood from the following illustration.

Liber.

The roll was sometimes of considerable length. The Scholiasts, indeed, speak of Thucydides and Homer as being written each in one long roll. The roll of Thucydides is estimated at about 578 pages, nearly 100 yards—surely an incredible length; and a Homer roll, 120 yards in length, is said to have been in existence at Constantinople. But this was not the usual system, and the roll rarely exceeded 100 pages (cf. Mart.viii. 44), and was usually much smaller. It was customary to divide a long work (opus or corpus) into several books (libri), each liber being in one roll (volumen; in Greek, τομός or κύλινδρος). Greek writers sometimes called these libri or divisions of a work βίβλια, sometimes λόγοι, and in the later Empire συγγράμματα. Thus, in contrast to the huge roll of Homer, said to have been at Constantinople, we have the papyrus of the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad from Elephantiné, so that the complete Iliad would have been in twenty-four rolls or volumes. The pages were numbered, or at any rate the total number was usually put on the titulus: even the total number of verses, or of lines in a prose work, were sometimes written on it. The price of the book was in part estimated by this number (C. I. L. iii. p. 831).

The writing was usually only on one side of the paper. The other side in old books was utilized for school-boys' exercises (Mart.iv. 86); or as scribbling paper (Mart.viii. 62). Both sides were, however, sometimes used for the original work, and the books were then called opisthographi (Pliny , Epist. iii. 5). Sometimes the writing was sponged out (as in a parchment palimpsest) and the paper used over again.

The roll was protected against worms by being smeared with cedar oil, which gave the paper a yellow tinge (Ovid, Trist. iii. 1, 13; Mart.iii. 2; A. P. 331); then the last leaf was pasted on to a thin piece of wood called the umbilicus or ὄμφαλος (the umbilicus is found also made of tightly-folded paper). Hence the last page is called eschatocollion (Mart.ii. 6); and the expression ad umbilicum adducere means to finish (ad cornua, Mart.xx. 107). The edges (frons) of the roll were carefully cut, and also smoothed with pumice-stone (Ovid, Trist. iii. 1, 13; Mart.i. 67; viii. 72). As a further decoration, the ends (cornua) of the umbilicus were sometimes gilded as far as they projected (Mart.viii. 61). The edges themselves (frons) were also coloured. A strip of parchment on which the title or subject of the book, and sometimes its number of pages or even lines, was written, was pasted on to the roll. This strip was called titulus or index (σίττυβοι or σίττυβαι). This titulus or index was often painted a bright colour. Finally, a cover for the roll (membrana, διφθέρα) was made of parchment coloured red or yellow. If one work was in several libri, they were tied in a bundle (fasces, fasciculus, Gell. ix. 4, or δέσμη). The only other addition to be noticed is that occasionally the portrait of the author was placed on the first page of the book (De Tranq. An. 9; Mart.xiv. 186).

In reading, the roll (liber or volumen) was held in both hands and unrolled with one, while the other rolled it up. The unrolling was called evolvere, revolvere, or volvere; going right through was called explicare; rolling up again, convolvere, replicare, or complicare. In rolling it up tightly, it was convenient to do so by holding the umbilicus with both hands while the first page was pressed under the chin. This is the meaning of quae trita duro non inhorruit mento (Mart.i. 66; cf. x. 93). The apparatus of a book is given completely by Martial (iii. 2):
“Cedro nunc licet ambules perunctus
Et frontis gemino decens honore
Pictis luxurieris umbilicis;
Et te purpura delicata velet
Et cocco rubeat superbus index.”

The multiplication of books at Rome began after the conquest and pacification of Italy; but booksellers' shops were not known until the end of the Republic. The earliest mention of such shops is in Cicero (Ad Q. Fr. iii. 4) and Philo (ii. 9, 21); but they were then still uncommon, and we find Atticus selling books, for the copying of which he had a large number of slaves (Ad Att. ii. 4). Booksellers were called librarii and also bibliopolae, and in Greek βιβλιοκάπηλοι. Horace gives us the name of the Sosii Brothers (Epist. i. 20, 2). Martial names several, and specifies Argiletum as the booksellers' quarter (i. 3, 117); there were also the Vicus Sandaliarius and the Sigillaria. There were booksellers, too, in the provincial towns—e. g. at Lugdunum (Pliny , Epist. ix. 11) and at Brundisium (Gell. ix. 4). As to the price, we have no very clear information; but it would seem that a book was not necessarily, as regards the cost of production, very expensive, though it might, from special circumstances, command a large price. Gellius (ii. 3) speaks of the second book of the Aeneid being bought for viginti aurei=nearly $90; but it was an antiquarian curiosity, as being reputed Vergil's own copy; and as a literary tradition, possibly untrue, it was said that Aristotle gave three talents for an autograph MS. of Speusippus, and Plato nearly two for three books of Philolaüs (Gell. iii. 17). Such instances merely show that bibliophiles lived

Libri. (From paintings at Pompeii.)

then as now, and price was regulated by fashion and rarity. Trustworthy copies of Ennius, for instance, were so rare in the time of Gellius that one of undoubted authority was hired for a large sum to decide a dispute as to a reading (Gell. xvii. 5). That, on the other hand, the real cost of production was not great, may be seen from the fact that Statius ( Silv. iv. 9, 9) speaks of a book in a neat purple cover costing about ten cents. The first book of Martial, in the shop of Atrectus, cost five denarii (Mart. i. 117); but even that was dear, for the bookseller Tryphon could sell it at a profit for two (Mart.xiii. 3). The author's profit could be made


1.

by selling his original copy to a bookseller (De Ben. vii. 6; Suet. Gram. 8),


2.

by selling copies made by his own slaves; but in the absence of all legal protection, the gains so to be made were very small, and the author who sought profit from his writing depended mainly on the liberality of rich patrons.

How early or to what extent booksellers existed at Athens is a matter of dispute. It is not unreasonable to deduce, from the mention of βιβλιογράφοι in Cratinus (Poll.vii. 211), that they existed as early as B.C. 430. This name, for which βιβλιοπώλης was afterwards used, would imply that the first booksellers were copyists who both copied and sold books. We have a book-market (τὰ βιβλία) at Athens in the time of Eupolis (Poll.ix. 47); and the same may be inferred from the mention of the book-collector Eudemus in Xenophon ( Mem. iv. 2).

Bibliography.—The standard work on ancient books is Birt's Das antike Buchwesen (Berlin, 1882); and the following are also valuable: Buchsenschutz, Besitz und Erwerb im griechischen Alterthum (Leipzig, 1879); Géraud, Les Livres dans l'Antiquité (Paris, 1840); Louisy, Le Livre (Paris, 1886); Wehle, Das Buch (Leipzig, 1879); Blümner, Technologie, 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1875-87); and Thompson, Hand-book of Greek and Latin Palaeography (London, 1893). For an account of the book-trade and literary property in antiquity, see the introduction to Clement's Étude sur le Droit des Auteurs (Grenoble, 1867); Haenny, Schriftsteller und Buchhändler im alten Rom (Leipzig, 1885); Romberg, Études sur la Propriété Artistique et Littéraire (Brussels, 1892); Schmitz, Schriftsteller und Buchhändler in Athen (Heidelberg, 1876); and the interesting but inaccurate work by Putnam, Authors and their Public in Ancient Times (New York, 1894).

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