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Ancient libraries

See Bibliotheca.

Libraries with important collections of Greek and Latin MSS

For the benefit of the student is given the following list of the great libraries that contain important collections of Greek and Latin MSS. or of early editions of the classic authors: (a)

Vatican Library.

Italy. The Vatican Library at Rome, founded by Pope Nicholas V. (1447-1455), the most magnificent collection in the world, though not the largest. Here are the majority of the MSS. from the convent at Bobbio, in the Middle Ages one of the richest collections in Europe. Here are also 3000 MSS. brought to the Vatican from Heidelberg in 1623. In 1655 the greater part of the library of Duke Federigo of Urbino was purchased by Pope Alexander VII. The collection of Queen Christina of Sweden added 1900 MSS. The last great addition was in 1856, when Pope Pius IX. added 40,000 volumes that had belonged to Cardinal Mai. In 1894, the whole number of MSS. of all kinds in the Vatican Library was more than 26,000, of which some 19,000 are Latin, 4000 Greek, and 2000 Oriental. The printed books number about 220,000. No complete catalogue has yet been made.—The Laurentian Library at Florence, founded in 1444 by Cosimo de Medici, contains some 10,000 Greek and Latin MSS., among them early codices of Vergil (fourth or fifth century), Tacitus, Cicero's letters ad familiares, the Pandects, and Aeschylus. It has however, only 4000 printed volumes.—The Ambrosian Library at Milan, founded in 1609 by the Cardinal Archbishop Federigo Borromeo, has 8000 MSS., among them some valuable palimpsests, and 170,000 printed books.—The Marcian Library or Library of St. Mark in Venice was founded in 1362, and established as a library by Cardinal Bessarion in the following century. Its Greek MSS. are very valuable, especially those of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Euripides, and Homer. (See Homerus.)—The Biblioteca Nazionale at Naples, opened as late as 1804 in conjunction with the remarkable Museo Nazionale, has over 4000 MSS. and 200,000 printed volumes, all catalogued. Among the former are codices of Lycophron, Quintus Smyrnaeus, the halfburned MS. of Festus, a Charisius, etc.—The Biblioteca Casanatense at Rome has lately been united with the Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuelo, which contains the great collections made by the Jesuits of the old Collegio Romano. The united library contains upwards of 6000 MSS. and 500,000 printed volumes.

b) France. France possesses the largest library in the world in the great Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, founded by Charles V. (d. 1380). It contains nearly 100,000 MSS. and over 3,000,000 printed volumes, not systematically catalogued. The library is arranged in four departments—

  • 1. Books and Maps;
  • 2. Manuscripts;
  • 3. Engravings;
  • 4. Medals and Antiques.
The collection illustrative of Latin Palaeography is wonderfully complete; and among the MSS. are famous ones of Sophocles, Euripides, Theocritus, Herodotus, Xenophon (the best), Plato, Demosthenes, Lucian, Catullus, Cicero, Ovid, Caesar, Sallust (the best), Livy , etc.—Many of the provincial libraries in France have valuable MSS., which have been catalogued at the expense of the French government (1849 foll.).

c) Germany and Austria. The Royal Library at Berlin, founded by the Elector Frederick William in 1661, has over 15,000 MSS. and nearly 1,000,000 volumes.—The largest library in Germany is the Royal Library at Munich, founded by Duke Albrecht V. of Bavaria (1550-1579). It is particularly rich in first editions of the classics derived from the monasteries, and has 30,000 MSS. and over 1,000,000 printed volumes. Among the MSS. are important ones of Demosthenes (A), Ovid, and Sallust. The University Library at Munich has some 1800 MSS. and 250,000 volumes.—The Royal Library at Dresden, founded by the Elector Augustus (d. 1586), has 400 MSS. and 475,000 printed volumes, besides a very remarkable collection of dissertations, numbering fully 400,000. It has also a set of incunabula, 2000 in number.—The Royal Public Library at Stuttgart, founded in 1765, has 3800 MSS. and nearly 500,000 volumes.—The Ducal Library of Gotha, dating from the seventeenth century, has more than 6000 MSS., many of which are of great value (see Codex), and 250,000 volumes.— Most of the German universities have admirable collections of classical material, especially Heidelberg (400,000 volumes and many famous MSS.) and Strassburg, which, though founded as late as 1871, has over 500,000 volumes and some good codices.— The Imperial Library at Vienna, founded by the emperor Frederick III. (or by his son Maximilian) about 1440, has 20,000 MSS., among them the only codex containing the Fifth Decade of Livy 's history. There are also 6800 incunabula, and 400,000 other volumes.—There are many monastic libraries in Austria with MSS. of importance, besides large collections of incunabula. Those at Salzburg, Kremsmünster, and Lembach are the best.

d) Belgium and Holland. Brussels has in the Bibliothèque Royale one of the finest libraries of Europe, with 30,000 MSS. and 400,000 volumes. There are several famous codices Bruxellenses. The University Library at Ghent (1600 MSS., 275,000 volumes) and that at Liège (1550 MSS., 160,000 volumes) are also important.—In Holland the Royal Library at the Hague (4000 MSS., 250,000 volumes), the University Library at Leyden (founded by William I. of Orange, 1575; 5600 MSS., 350,000 volumes), and the University Library at Amsterdam have codices of great importance to classical scholars.

e) Denmark. The Royal Library at Copenhagen, founded in the sixteenth century by Christian III., has many important classical MSS. (codices Haunienses) and 500,000 volumes.

f) England. The library of the British Museum in London, founded by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753, is one of the largest in the world, and in point of system and accessibility the most admirable. It contains more than 1,500,000 printed volumes, and upwards of 50,000 MSS. of all kinds—Greek, Latin, Oriental, and Mediaeval. Most important among the classical MSS. are two codices of Homer, one containing the Iliad and one the Odyssey codices Townleiani), both among the earliest in existence.—At Oxford is the Bodleian Library, founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1602. It contains nearly 500,000 printed volumes and 30,000 MSS., many of them Oriental. Its collection of editiones principes of Greek and Latin authors is one of the finest in Europe.—The University Library at Cambridge was established in the early part of the fifteenth century. It has nearly 6000 MSS. and a number of printed books with MS. notes, among them being some by Bentley (q.v.). Its printed volumes number about 250,000.—The library of Trinity College at the same university is also unusually rich in Greek and Latin MSS. and early editions.

g) United States. The American libraries that are richest in classical works are those of Harvard University (400,000 volumes) and Yale University (more than 200,000 volumes). In the library of Columbia College (200,000 volumes) the early and rare printed editions of Greek and Latin authors are well represented.

See Petzholdt, Bibliotheca Bibliographica (Leipzig, 1866); Madan, Books in Manuscript (London, 1893); Montfaucon, Bibliothèque des Bibliothèques des Manuscrits (Paris, 1739); and Reinach, Manuel de Philologie Classique, i. pp. 23, 24 (Paris, 1883).

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