Between the ancient model and its Humanistic revival: the notion of bibliotheca publica in the Middle Ages

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Wydział Historii UAM

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The paper addresses the question of the meaning of the term "bibliotheca publica" as it was used by Gervase of Canterbury in his Chronica (late 12th century). In the prologue, the chronicler says that he is writing for his own community, that is the brethren of the cathedral priory of Christ Church, Canterbury, and not for a public library. Basing on the uses of "bibliotheca publica" and related phrases by the authors prior to Gervase and potentially known to him, the paper argues that a repository sanctioned by a public (royal) authority was the kind of destination that Gervase did not longed for. If that interpretation holds, Gervase's understanding, which was shaped by Classical, Patristic, and Carolingian texts, would have been different from that of a publicly accessible book collection, which appears as the current denotation of "bibliotheca publica", when the term came in vogue with the rise of Humanism.



Late Medieval and Early Modern Libraries as Knowledge Repositories, Guardians of Tradition and Catalysts of Change (Lamemoli). A book historical project financed by the Academy of Finland and University of Jyväskylä (no. 307635); Medieval Publishing from c. 1000 to 1500 (European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 716538)


History of ideas, Medieval libraries, Medieval chronicles, Gervase of Canterbury


Kujawiński, J. Between the ancient model and its Humanistic revival: the notion of bibliotheca publica in the Middle Ages. W: Totius mundi philohistor. Studia Georgio Strzelczyk octuagenario oblata. Red. nauk.: Małgorzata Delimata-Proch, Adam Krawiec, Jakub Kujawiński. Poznań: Wydział Historii UAM, 2021, pp. 415-429.



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego