The Battle of the Books

“Ink is the great missive weapon in all battles of the learned.”

Jonathan Swift

More eighteenth-century bookish satire today, because University Reading List.

For what it’s worth, The Battle of the Books is actually quite good. It’s a satiric account of a battle in a library between the books of the Ancients – Homer, Virgil, Lucan – and the books of the Moderns, whose names are not worth relating because nobody remembers them outside of English-land.

It’s pretty awesome, mainly because it does not require copious footnotes, and also because, well, some books have a massive war in a library. What is not to like? Amazingly, the fact that it is written in eighteenth-century prose did not bother me at all, despite the irregular punctuation and random capitalisation, plus BOOKS. WAR. LIBRARY. I know I keep stressing this point, but I do feel it is important.

It’s only about thirty pages, it’s readily comprehensible to a modern audience, and it reminded me very strongly of the books in the Unseen University Library (which, if you remember, needed to be chained to the shelves to stop them attacking each other). Definitely worth a read.


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