The Ancient Library

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On this page: Lfbera Fuga – Liber – Liberalia – Liberalis Causa – Liberalis Man Us – Liberalitas – Mentum




It is said to have been invented by Eumenes II. king of Pergamus, in consequence of the prohibi­tion of the export of papyrus from Egypt, by Ptolemy Epiphanes. (Plin. xiii. 21.) It is pro­bable, however, that Eumenes introduced only some improvement in the manufacture of parch­ment, as Herodotus mentions writing on skins as common in his time, and says that the lonians had been accustomed to give the name of skins (5j<£0e-pat) to books (v. 58). Other materials are also mentioned as used for writing on, but books appear to have been almost invariably written either upon papyrus or parchment.

The ancients wrote usually on only one side of the paper or parchment, whence Juvenal (i. 5) speaks of an extremely long tragedy as

" Summi plena jam margine libri Scriptus et in tergo necdum finitus Orestes."

Such works were called OpistograpU (Plin. Ep. iii. 5), and are also said to be written in aversa charia. (Mart. viii. 62.)

The back of the paper, instead of being written upon, was usually stained with saffron colour or the cedrus. (Lucian, irpbs cbrcuS. 16. vol. iii. p. J13 ; croceae membrana tabellae, Juv. vii. 23 ; Pers. iii. 10.) We learn from Ovid that the cedrus produced a yellow colour. (Ovid, Trist. iii. 1. 13.)

As paper and parchment were dear, it was fre­quently the custom to erase or wash out writing of little importance, and to write upon the paper or parchment again, which was then called Palim-psestus (iraXi/j.ty'hffTos). This practice is mentioned by Cicero (ad Fam. vii. 18), who praises his friend Trebatius for having been so economical as to write upon a palimpsest, but wonders what those writ­ings could have been which were considered of less importance than a letter. (Compare Catull. xxii. 5 Martial, xiv. 7.)

The paper or parchment was joined together so as to form one sheet; and when the work was finished, it was rolled on a staff, whence it was called a volumen; and hence we have the expres­sion cvolvere librum. (Cic. ad AtL ix. 10.) When an author divided a work into several books, it was usual to include only one book in a volume or roll, so that there were generally the same number of volumes as of books. Thus Ovid (Trist. i. 1. 117) calls his fifteen books of Metamorphoses " mutatae ter quinque volumina formae." (Com­pare Cic. Tusc. iii.-3, ad Fam. xvii. 17.) When a book was long, it was sometimes divided into two volumes ; thus Pliny (Ep. iii. 5) speaks of a work in three books " in sex volumina propter amplitudinem divisi."

In the papyri rolls found at Herculaneum, the stick on which the papyrus is rolled does not pro­ject from the papyrus, but is concealed by it. Usually, however, there were balls or bosses, ornamented or painted, called umbilici or cornua^ which were fastened at each end of the stick and projected from the papyrus. (Martial, iii. 2, y. 6, 1 5'; Tibull. iii. 1. 14 ; Ovid. Trist. i. 1. 8.) The ends of the roll were carefully cut, polished with ])imiice-stone and coloured black ; they were called the geminae froutes. (Ovid. I, c.)

To protect the roll from injury it was frequently put in a parchment case, which was stained with a purple colour or with the yellow of the Lutum. Martial (x. 93) calls such a covering a purpurea toga. Something of the same kind is meant by

the Greek sittybae (ffiTrtgai, Cic. ad AtL iv. 5), which Hesy chins explains by Sepno/Ttvai arroXai.

The title of the book (titulus indeoe) was written on a small strip of papyrus or parchment with- a light red colour (coccum or minium). Winkelmann supposed that the title was on a kind of ticket suspended to the roll, as is seen in the paintings at Herculaneum (see woodcut), but it was most probably stuck on the papyrus itself. (Compare Tibull. I.e.) We learn from Seneca (de Tranq. An. 9) and Martial (xiv. 186) that the portraits of the authors were often placed on the first page of the work.

As the demand for books increased towards the end of the Roman republic, and it became the fashion for the Roman nobles to have a library, the trade of booksellers naturally arose. They were called Librarii (Cic. de Leg. iii. 20), Biblio-polae (Mart. iv. 71, xiii. 3), and by the Greek writers fii€\iwv KciiryXoi or fiiSXioKairqXoi. Their shop was called taberna libraria (Cic. Phil. ii. 9), These shops were chiefly in the Argiletum (Mart. i. 4), and in the Vicus Sandalarius (Gell xviii. 4). On the shop door, or • the pillar, as the case might be, there was a list of the titles of books on sale : allusion is made to this by Horace (Sat. i. 4. 71, Art. Poet. 372) and Martial (i. 118). The price at which books were sold, seems to have been mode­rate. Martial says (/. c.) that a good copy of the first book of his epigrams might be had for five denarii. In the time of Augustus, the Sosii appear to have been the great booksellers at Rome. (Hor. Ep. i. 20. 2, Art. Pott. 345 ; see also Becker, Gallus, vol. i. p. 163, &c.) Compare the articles atra-


LIBER, LIBERTAS. The Roman writers di­ vide all men into Liberi and Servi [servus] ; and men were either born Liberi, in which case they were called by the Romans Ingenui [!ngenui], or they became Liberi after being Servi, in which case they were called Libertini [libertus], Libertus is defined in the Institutes of Justinian (l.tit. 1), to be "the natural faculty to do that which a man pleases, except lie be in any thing hindered by force or law." Accordingly the Ro­ mans considered Libertas as the natural state or condition of men [servus]. A man might either be born a slave, or he might become a slave by loss of freedom. Libertas was the first essential of the three which determined status or condition : the other two were Civitas and Familia. Without Libertas there could be no status. Civitas implied Libertas ; but Libertas did not necessarily imply Civitas, for a man might be Liber without being Civis. [Civis.] Familia implies both Libertas and Civitas, and he only who is Civis has Familia, [familia.] Thus, Familia necessarily includes Civitas, but Civitas does not necessarily include Familia in one sense; for familia may be changed, while libertas and civitas remain (cum et libertaa et civitas retinetur, familia tan turn mutatur mini- mam esse capitis diminutionem constat : Dig. 4. tit. 5. s. 11). But Civitas so far necessarily implied Familia, that no Civis Romanus was permanently without Familia. [G. L.]

LFBERA FUGA. [exsilium.]

LIBERALIA. [dionysia. p. 414, a.]

LIBERALIS CAUSA. [assertor.]


LIBERALITAS. [ambitus.]

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