Aristotle’s Library and the Horses of Tros: The Book as a Material and Intellectual Object in Intellectual Circles in Antiquity

By Mathilde Cambron-Goulet.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper intends to examine the stories related to the transmission of Aristotle’s library, as found in Strabo, Plutarch and Athenaeus, on the basis of their understanding as objects that have a material value independent from their contents as well as an intellectual value. For this purpose, I will first study how the material and intellectual quality of the book is considered in different philosophical works (Arrian, Discourses, II, 23; Porphyry, The Life of Plotinus, VIII; Eunapius, Lives of the philosophers, 455; Lucian, Remarks Addressed to an Illiterate Book-Fancier), which will show on one hand that the material quality of the book increased their value as intellectual objects, and on the other hand that the use of books as material objects — to increase the owner’s prestige for example — was commonly criticized in intellectual circles. Then, I will examine the possibility of a mythic value to the book by a comparison between the stories about the transmission of Aristotle’s library and the story of Tros’ horses. It will then be possible to discuss if the mythic value of the library was as well modulated by its materiality as by its contents, and if this is the case in all three versions of the story.

Keywords: Aristotle, Antiquity, Book, Mythical Value, Intellectual Value, Material Value

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.133-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 529.960KB).

Mathilde Cambron-Goulet

Phd Student, Département de philosophie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada


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