Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal

Since reading the Winterson text I have been thinking of the Library of Ashurbanipal; so when Ronnie and Amanda posted about the Library of Alexandria the other week it reminded me and I thought I had better post something about it as I think it is going to highly influence my book. Ok, so quick history lesson for those who don'y know about the library:

The library itself was set up in Nineveh by King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrian Empire. It was where the Flood Tablet upon which the Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered. It was a library of thousands of clay tablets with cuneiform writing. The guys who discovered it however were definitely not librarians and not particularly professional archaeologists either as they managed to jumble all the tablet fragments up together and didn't make any record of where exactly they were found. This has made the efforts of archaeologists and scholars much harder now, and some of the fragments may now never be reunited with their other halves.


Cuneiform is a really interesting written language and consists of scribes pressing into wet clay to produce indentations and thus creating letters and words. The clay would then have been baked in the sun to dry. Creating some pretty hefty books! It is thought that this mixture of heat, sun and sandy climate is what helped preserve such old writing.

Nineveh is where modern Iraq now stands. I have been recently asked to be involved in another book arts project that relates to a certain street in Iraq; Al-Mutanabbi Street. You can find out more about the project here. I am telling you all this as ideas for both BookArtObject and Al-Mutanabbi Street are becoming intertwined. I think I will be making different books for each but the ideas will be linked of course.

I have a few days off next week so hopefully I will knock out a few ideas in my studio and will progress a bit in both projects. Until then!

Abigail

6 comments:

Carol said...

Abigail, this is another fascinating look at an ancient library, certainly one I knew nothing about (until now). The Al-Mutanabbi Street project also sounds really interesting and I hope you keep us up to date with your progress as you make the books.

Amanda said...

This is really interesting Abigail. Thanks for sharing your research. It's a fascinating area of the world. Of course those beautiful clay tablets really appeal to me with my background - but they're not very suited to posting all over the world, are they?

ronnie said...

thanks for the great read!

Rhubarb said...

Thanks for that! I knew about The Epic of Gilgamesh (another good read! There's a paperback translation out there somewhere) but not the context of the library. How amazing it must be to look inside a cave or dig a hole in the ground and find all that knowledge staring back at you... shame they didn't at least take a photo, though.

Abigail Thomas said...

rhubarb - well it was the mid 1800's when they first discovered it...

amanda - yes thought of your ceramic books but yes agreed - a bit difficult to pop in the post...!

oh and by the way the al-mutanabbi street project is still calling for artists so if anyone involved in BAO is interested....?

moreidlethoughts said...

Great stuff! Now, I'm going to have to dig into my 3 layer shelf to find my ancient references.

Off to check the Al-Mutanabbi Project, as I was tempted a while ago, but thought I had too much on my plate.Hmm...
Thanks, Abigail.