Libraries and Lucretius

20 Sep

Spend more than five minutes with me, and you’ll probably hear a sentence that begins with the phrase, “On NPR yesterday…”

I’m obsessed.

And, at the top of my NPR all-stars list is Robert Krulwich, NPR science correspondent, blogger, and co-creator of the phenomenal Radiolab. Imagine my delight when my Morning Edition includes a piece on Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things.

While the piece focused on the surprisingly modern atomic theory Lucretius describes, I was caught up in the story of how the book survived the early Christian era through the help of one Poggio Bracciolini, a 14th century calligrapher and book hunter. In particular, I’m interested in the role of the “public” (although not in the modern sense) libraries of Rome, monastic libraries in Germany, and the hand-to-hand spread of this book that was once on the verge of extinction. It’s also interesting to note the role censorship has played over the ages, and the fact that the content of the book remains “radioactive” after more than 2,000 years.

It’s a great story, and you can listen to it here.

Good thing nobody told those German monks to weed their libraries, eh?

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