Libraries For a New Age
We’re all familiar with the fate of the famous Egyptian library at Alexandria but did you know one of the first libraries existed centuries earlier in Mesopotamia? That library plays an important role in my novel, The Witch of Babylon. In the 7th century BC, one of Mesopotamia’s great kings employed hundreds of scribes to copy and create clay tablets which can be considered early books. The king stored these at the royal library in his capital city of Nineveh. Less than fifty years later, Nineveh was completely destroyed, its treasures looted and the city burned. Oddly enough, the fires helped to preserve the tablets and thousands of years later, when British explorers excavated the remains of Nineveh, the library was discovered. Over ten thousand of these tablets are now kept in another remarkable library – the British Museum.
It is thanks to the foresight of the ancient king that we know so much today about the life, culture and history of Mesopotamia. In that library you can find medicinal treatments that are still effective today, wonderful poetry and blow by blow accounts of military campaigns.
Libraries today play quite a different role. They are a central gathering spot for the community – an opportunity for new moms to get some much needed social time, a valuable study aid for students at all levels, a great resource for authors and journalists, a refuge for people out of work who need to use a computer and the place where children are introduced to the magic of stories. From the vast archives of the Smithsonian to our local public libraries, their primary purpose as the repository for the wealth of knowledge of nations and cultures remains its most vital role.
This may be why, when cultures come into conflict as they do most glaringly in times of war, libraries are the first to come under attack. At the time of the crusades, Mongol invaders destroyed the House of Wisdom, a fabulous library in Baghdad, and threw so many manuscripts into the Tigris that the river was said to run black with ink. When the Germans retreated from Naples Italy in WWII, many of the books in lodged in the library at the Royal Palace were burned. And in the recent Iraq war, the archives at Babylon were badly damaged.
In many western countries today, libraries are coming under a different kind of pressure. Budget restraints and cutbacks are forcing many to close or severely curtail services. And with the digital age upon us, it is an open question as to whether libraries can survive. Will great search facilities like Google and Bing eventually make libraries redundant? They have always proved adaptable to new conditions in the past so I think libraries will master this new challenge too. I’m sure all of us who love books sincerely hope so.
The Witch of Babylon
The Witch of Babylon
Mesopotamian Trilogy 1
Forge Books, October 16,2012
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
Out of the searing heat and sandstorms of the infamous summer of 2003 in Baghdad comes The Witch of Babylon, a gripping story rooted in ancient Assyrian lore and its little-known but profound significance for the world.
John Madison is a Turkish-American art dealer raised by his much older brother, Samuel, a mover and shaker in New York's art world. Caught between his brother's obsession with saving a priceless relic looted from Iraq's National Museum and a deadly game of revenge staged by his childhood friend, John must solve a puzzle to find the link between a modern-day witch and an ancient one.
Aided by Tomas, an archaeologist, and Ari, an Iraqi photojournalist—two men with their own secrets to hide—John races against time to decipher a biblical prophecy that leads to the dark history behind the science of alchemy. Kidnapped by villainous fortune hunters, John is returned to Iraq, where a fabulous treasure trove awaits discovery—if he can stay alive long enough to find it.
International thriller-writing sensation D. J. McIntosh makes her American debut with The Witch of Babylon.
About D.J. McIntosh
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