Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Ιστορία The Koraes Library is one of the biggest libraries in Greece. Founded in 1792, it was originally an annex to the Great School of Chios. The latter currently houses the 1st Middle School of Chios. The library’s first collection was built around the books that belonged to Koraes and his friends, namely Greek intellectuals from abroad.



The history of our library is divided into three periods:

  • The first period, which extends from 1972 to 1822
  • The second period, which extends from 1822 to 1881; and
  • The third period, which extends from 1881 to the present day




The first period: 1792 -1822

This period is closely related with the history of the Great Public School of Chios, founded in 1972. Thanks to generous financing from the island’s upper social class and the unfailing care of Adamantios Koreas —who believed that it would be impossible for students to benefit from their teachers if the latter did not possess any books— the library became one of the biggest and most important libraries in Asia Minor and the Middle East. During this period, the library received annually the amount of 3,000 kuruses to order in new books. It would also receive contributions from European intellectuals, who were enamoured with Greece and would respond to Koraes’ call for support by donating their major works.



As the book collection grew bigger so did the need to build a spacious building to house it. In 1817, a new and impressive building was erected, which consisted of a “solid stone construction with a dome made of long arches”, as Marsellus describes it. According to Al. Vlastos, the construction cost amounted to 80,000 kuruses. This was clearly a public library, in other words access was free to residents of the island but also to those who lived close by. In 1822, it was estimated that the library possessed over 20,000 volumes, all of which were destroyed by the Turks.



The second period: 1822-1881

During this period, progressive repatriation of the Greeks from Chios living abroad and the financial support of the Greeks of the diaspora resulted in rebuilding the educational system and in creating new schools. Once again Koraes remained a vital catalyst in enriching the library’s collection, since he bequeathed to the library his personal book collection. Numerous donations from other eminent personalities originating from Chios, such as Ioannis Andreadis, a wealthy merchant from Trieste, who donated 4,300 volumes, resulted in the collection outgrowing the building’s capacity. Therefore, it was deemed necessary to build a new edifice to house the library’s “priceless treasure, the only thing our poor country can be proud of”, to use the expression of the library’s trustees. In 1870, the new library found a new home, an impressive building built east of Chios’ historic middle school. The construction was made possible thanks to the love for the country and the arts of the Greeks from Chios living abroad.

The building’s façade was decorated with the sphinx, a symbol used in Chios’ ancient coins, and a plaque where the names of the trustees and the date of construction were engraved. The plaque was created by sculptor Ant. Frangoulis. Nikolaos Politis was entrusted with cataloguing close to 11,000 volumes. Unfortunately, the newly erected building, a true labour of work and sacrifices, would not live long. As a result of the horrendous and devastating 1881 earthquake, the building was severely damaged and had to be demolished. Fortunately, none of its priceless books was lost, although they all fell of their racks and were scattered.




The third period: 1881 to present day

The Greeks from Chios living abroad were called once again to help with the construction of the library’s new building. Shortly after the 1881 earthquake, namely in 1885, the library was given a new building, the one we know nowadays. Photos taken when the building was first created show its original form and shape: a sample of a typical neoclassical architecture, whose columns were made of a stone extracted from the village of Thymiana, and an entablature at the building’s façade comprising an architrave, a frieze and a cornice. The 1933 addition included the library’s reading room and basement with bookcases. In 1928, the Greek State recognized the library as an independent institution, dissociated from Chios’ middle school. This institution was given the official name of Koraes Public Library of Chios. In 1948, the Argenti family embarked on the generous enterprise of renovating the library’ building and adding a floor.

Philippos P. Argenti, a prominent citizen of Chios, benefited the library in more than one ways. He financed the construction of the additional floor and donated his personal book, painting, map, album and precious items collection. 1969 marked the opening ceremony of the Folklore Museum. The works undertaken between 1974 and 1978 to expand, modify and rearrange the layout of the current building were financed by Pantelis Argenti, Philippos’ son. The library’s neighbouring building was given gradually to the library. It used to serve as the city’s old School for girls; it currently houses the library’s Information Centre, the Cataloguing Department, the Educational Programs Department, the Computers for Persons with Disabilities Department and the Digitalized Documents Department. Since 1993, when the building of the School for girls was entirely ceded to the library, the library’s Board of Trustees has been elaborating a plan for a new expansion.



Important Dates

  • 1792 – The Great School of Chios is founded. The library is only an annex to the school.
  • 1811 – Ad. Koraes sends a letter to the school and library Trustees. Koraes works fervently toward creating a real library.
  • 1817 – A building is built to house a growing number of books.
  • 1822 – The Turks destroy the island. Thousand of books are reduced to dust.
  • 1825 – Koraes’ will reveals that the great benefactor bequeathed his personal collection of books to Chios’ library.
  • 1850 – 3,000 books and manuscripts belonging to Koraes arrive in Chios.
  • 1858 – The library receives the Ioannis Andreadis’ collection of books by means of donation.
  • 1870 – A new building, located near Chios’ middle school, is built to house the library.
  • 1871 - Ν. Politis is entrusted with the task to catalogue the library’s collection, namely some 11,000 volumes.
  • 1881 – The new building is destroyed by a terrifying earthquake.
  • 1885 – A new building is built at the library’s current location.
  • 1928 – The Greek State recognized that the library, officially named Koraes Public Library of Chios, is an independent institution, dissociated from the city’s middle school.
  • 1933 – The Reading Room as we know it today is added to the library.
  • 1948 – The Argenti family undertakes the renovation of the library’s building.
  • 1962 – All rooms dedicated to the Folklore Museum are officially open to the public.
  • 1978 – Pantelis Argenti finances the works aimed at expanding, modifying and rearranging the library’s layout to its current shape and form.
  • 1993 – The building which used to house the old School for girls is finally ceded to the library. The Board of Trustees starts elaborating plans to expand the library