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Library of Alexandria

Pinakes (Ancient Greek: Πίνακες "tables", plural of πίναξ) was the first library catalog, a catalog of books and scrolls.[1] The library catalog was a set of indexes used at the Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, starting in the third century BCE.[2] Only a few fragments of it have survived, which give an approximation of the organization of the whole.


The Library of Alexandria had been founded by Ptolemy I Soter about 306 BCE. The first recorded librarian was Zenodotus of Ephesus. His successor in 245 BCE was the Greek poet Callimachus of Cyrene.[2] Callimachus is considered the first bibliographer and is the one that organized the library by authors and subjects about 245 BCE.[3]

Apollonius of Rhodes was the successor to Callimachus. Eratosthenes of Cyrene succeeded Apollonius in 235 BCE. and compiled his tetagmenos epi teis megaleis bibliothekeis, the "scheme of the great bookshelves." In 195 BCE Aristophanes of Byzantium was the librarian and updated the Pinakes further yet.[1]


The library collection at the Library of Alexandria contained more than 120,000 scrolls, which were grouped together by subject matter and stored in bins.[3] Each bin carried a label with painted tablets hung above the stored parchments. Pinakes was named after these tablets and are a set of books or scrolls of index lists.[2] The bins gave bibliographical information for every scroll. A typical entry started with a title. It also provided the author's name, birthplace, his father's name, any teachers he trained under, and his educational background. It contained a brief biography of the author and a list of the author's publications. The entry had the first line of the work, a summary of its contents, the name of the author, and information about where the scroll came from.[4]

Callimachus' system divided works into six genres and five sections of prose. They were rhetoric, law, epic, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, history, medicine, mathematics, natural science and miscellanies. Each category was alphabetized by author. The Pinakes proved indispensable to librarians for centuries. It became a model to use all over the Mediterranean. Its influence can be traced to medieval times, even to the Arabic counterpart of the tenth century: Ibn al-Nadim's Al-Fihrist ("Index"). Variations on this system were used in libraries until the late 1800s when Melvil Dewey developed the Dewey Decimal Classification in 1876, which is still in use today.[4]




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