In ancient Egypt, under the decree of Ptolemy II, all ships visiting the city were obliged to surrender their books to the library of Alexandria and be copied. The original would be kept in the library and the copy given back to the owner.

Library of Alexandria

Map of ancient Alexandria. The Mouseion was located in the royal Broucheion quarter (listed on this map as “Bruchium”) in the central part of the city near the Great Harbor (“Portus Magnus” on the map).

The Ptolemaic rulers intended the Library to be a collection of all knowledge and they worked to expand the Library’s collections through an aggressive and well-funded policy of book purchasing. They dispatched royal agents with large amounts of money and ordered them to purchase and collect as many texts as they possibly could, about any subject and by any author. Older copies of texts were favored over newer ones, since it was assumed that older copies had undergone less copying and that they were therefore more likely to more clo… Continue Reading