The gift of library!

Kartik Raj Kushvah, Vice President, Delhi State Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association, shares how libraries came into being.


“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” –Jorge Luis Borges

To mark its Founder’s Day, some rare manuscripts in Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library at Patna, which is under the control of Union Ministry of Culture, recently displayed the manuscripts. Khan Bahadur Khuda Baksh, the founder of the library, died on August 3, 1908 and every year three day celebrations are held in his memory at the library.

Kartik Raj Kushvah

Another important day in the history of libraries is the National Librarians’ Day in India. The father of library science, late Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (August 12, 1892 September 27, 1972), was the stalwart of the Indian Library system. He was a mathematician and a librarian. His most notable contributions to the field were his five laws of library science and the development of the first major faceted classification system, the colon classification. He is considered to be the father of library science, documentation and information science in India and is widely known throughout the rest of the world for his fundamental thinking in the field of library science.

His birthday is observed as the National Librarians’ Day in India.

Here’s a look at how libraries came into being?

The first libraries appeared 5000 years ago in south-west Asia’s Fertile Crescent, the area that ran from Mesopotamia to the Nile in Africa. Fertile Crescent was the birthplace of writing and was known as the cradle of civilization, around 3000 B.C. These archives mainly consisted of the records of commercial transactions or inventories. This period marked the end of prehistory and beginning of history.

The earliest discovered private archives were found at Ugarit. There is also evidence of Libraries at Nippur at about 1900 B.C. and at Nineveh, 700B.C., library classification system was found.
Renaissance in libraries

The Renaissance period of library system can be fixed from 15th century in Central and Northern Italy. Libraries of humanists and their enlightened patrons provided a nucleus around which an academy of scholars conglomerated in various Italian cities.

History of libraries in India…
In India, the history of National Library began with foundation
of the Calcutta Public Library in 1836. That was a non-government
institution and was run on proprietary basis. People contributing
Rs. 300 in subscription became the proprietors. Prince Dwarkanath
Tagore was the first proprietor of that building. Lord Metcalfe, the
Governor General at that time transferred 4,675 volumes from the
library of the Fort Williams College, Kolkata at Calcutta Public Library

Malatesta Novello, Lord of Cesena, founded the Malatestiana library. Cosino de medici in Florence developed his own collection, which formed the basis of Laurentian library. In Rome, the papal collections were brought together by Pope Nicholas V, in separate Greek and Latin libraries, in late 15th century. The 16th and 17th centuries saw other privately endowed libraries assembled in Rome.

In China, during 1561, Fan Qin during the Ming Dynasty, founded Tianyi Chamber, which is the oldest existing library in China. In its heyday, it boasted a collection of 70,000 volumes of antique books. The 17th and 18th centuries are known as a golden age of libraries. During this period, some important libraries were found in Europe. In 1751, the British Museum was established and had a library containing over 50,000 books. In 1800, there were around 200 commercial libraries in Britain.

In 1891, Imperial Library was formed, which contained many books formerly belonging to the library of the East India College, Fort Williams and the library of the East India body in London.

In 1903, Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, conceived the idea of opening a library for the use of public. He decided to amalgamate the rich collection of both these libraries, which was called Imperial Library and was formally opened to the public on January 30, 1903, at Metcalfe Hall. On February 1, 1953, in the presence of B.C. Roy, Maulana Azad and H.C. Mukherjee, S.S. Bhatnagar, Humayun Kabir and B.S. Kesavan, Imperial Library was named as National Library and the collection was shifted from The Esplanade to the present Belvedere Estate.
Libraries are an important part of our culture and will always remain.

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