Personal (mundane) libraries: how big?

Hi there!

I am having great fun reading A&A and tinkering with a potential natural magician. I might have missed it, but I have failed to see what was the case with personal libraries in the middle ages.

The first question is: did nobles have personal libraries? If "yes", how big were they? Is the same true for erudites? or were all the books common property of universities and the like?

Basically I am trying to design a "realistic" court wizard, one that can have a personal library thanks to the generosity of his master. I have not the slightest idea on how were the medieval libraries of wealthy individuals. Even if I have tried to make a mental image of this kind of resources form the several Ars books, so far I have come out empty handed there, :frowning: not being able to imagine how a library (outside a covenant's) would be like. Does Covenants cover this? Is a section of A&A able to give the answers to this?

Thx in advance :slight_smile:



Anything from a single book up to many many dozens.

Try the links here: ... 781947_eg3

Until the fourteenth century, if not later, some learned men owned as many and as wide-ranging books as some academic and religious institutions, and their gifts of books had a direct impact on the creation, growth and development of the communal libraries.

In short, you can pretty much decide almost any amount of books, an ardent collector(for whatever reason), or someone who inherited a relative who was such or both at once could potentially have so big a collection that he cant even take proper care of the books, while someone "not interested" might lack any books or have a small handful for various reasons...

DW75 is correct, the libraries of wealthy individuals ranged widely. I should add to that, in the Early Middle Ages many, if not most, noblemen were illiterate, devoting most of their time to training for war and caring for their agricultural produce, while it often fell to their wives, the lady of the manor, to conduct the business of reading and writing, as well as keeping the household accounts, running the staff, etc. But even a typical illiterate lord might still keep a library, for the education of his daughters and for prestige. These would probably be quite small, but not necessarily.

So it's really up to you to say how much your lord wanted to invest in a library for his court wizard. On a sidenote, until the Renaissance really got underway European scholars were not terribly numerous or prolific; most of the people we call "scholars" were churchmen. Cadres of university-educated scholars didn't appear in any great numbers until the 14th-15th century or later. Most of the really good scholarly work was done by the Jews and the Almohads (Muslims), so your court wizard's library might have a good deal of books in Hebrew and Arabic. And Greek, don't forget Greek!

Potential other languages of interest might be Egyptian, Coptic, Persian, Aramaic...

Jefferson was considered a scholar and lived a long time later. At his plantation museum they said he had around 300 books in his library.
I'd say a personal medieval library can always be carried by its owner.