The Library at Ephesus, built almost 2,000 years ago, was the third largest library in the western world (after Alexandria and Pergamum). It held 12,000 scrolls. The library was destroyed by an earthquake (or possibly the Goths, or both), but the façade stood for another thousand years, when another earthquake flattened it. Until the late 1970s, it remained a big pile of stones (some of which were picked up and taken to museums).
This was the starting point in the 1970s, when the facade was re-erected (when you rebuild something using the original parts, it’s called anastylosis. And that’s what you see today:
So I’ve been working on this for a long time. It’s important. I’ve been there. I’ve also been to the ruins of the library at Pergamum (which is now called Bergama), on a cold day when the wind threatened to blow us right off the mountain.
These are such important places in the history of literacy. They remind us of how much we learned in the past, and then lost, repeatedly.
Anyhow, this is what I had put together for my original attempt.. I had made some progress - eliminating most of the lettering and adding illustrations from the manuscripts….
But I finally understood - it was the literature that was important, not the building. All those scrolls, all that information, so much knowledge, all together in one place. That’s what I had to show.
These are the texts that I started with.
But I needed more than western texts. Yes, most (probably all) of the original library scrolls were from the Mediterranean region, but, well, the truth is, I’m sick of the western-centric approach. When I was teaching art, I did many lessons on architecture. The library book on World Architecture had photos from Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia…but, with the exception of the Egyptian pyramids, not one building from all of Africa. Not ONE.
So this library is going to be fully stocked.
From the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Images from palm leaf manuscripts….
And then I found these! I was searching around for other ancient African text, and came across Ethiopian healing scrolls. The art is so powerful that I was sidetracked for days, reading, collecting images and finally creating a whole tablet design based on these scrolls. But back to Ephesus:
Now the force of the manuscripts is bursting out of those old ruins. The colors are taken from the manuscripts, whenever possible. Below: the dyed design.
The stones are just a silent white framework for the glory of all that knowledge.
OK, almost finished sewing. Here’s some details:
Cangjie, who is credited with giving writing to China (yes, he has 2 sets of eyes)
Egyptian and Ethiopian figures, with a hand drawn in musical notation (early music directors would write notes on their figures, and hold them up for the choir to see).
A figure from Mayan glyphs….and I don’t remember where the other one came from.
And here’s a hopeful thought: yes, the ancient libraries are gone, and the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil demonstrates our collective neglect, but…on the internet, we have the greatest wealth of information available to the most people EVER. In all of human history, there has never been a time when so many people had access to so much knowledge.