The Library of Alexandria had 30-50 state-funded scholars and agents scouring the Mediterranean for new books.   It’s believed that by the first century BC, it had 700,000 papyrus rolls.   Books borrowed from incoming ships would be copied ‘with unforgiving exactness’ and catalogued as being ‘from the ships’.   Despite their unforgiving exactness, it seems the librarians occasionally muddled the copies and originals and returned the copy to the ship.

I pray to be able to think and work with ‘unforgiving exactness’ and to remember to return borrowed books to their ships.  And am available to act as an agent scouring the Mediterranean for books.

Source: Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead, p. 40-41

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