Texts were formatted on fired brick, at first, then on papyrus scrofls, and later on parchment in the Middle Ages. These were all technological innovations that had significant impact on libraries that were to become crucibles for the organization of written memory and sources of knowledge to underpin social power and community commitments.
Likewise, by the Twelfth Century, millennial cultures, such as that of China, had given their libraries the task of advising imperial power, on the basis of the recorded wisdom of their forebears.
The invention of print in the mid Fifteenth Century constitutes a huge cultural change, in religion, politics, and commerce. The printed word implied a high degree of commitment between individuals and social power, in a creative dynamic that led to the mass production of texts, the emergence of a critical mass of readers, publishers and printers who would eventually create what we know as “public opinion”, opening the way to challenges of established authority. Libraries responded to these transformations, opening themselves to the emergent readership and organizing information and knowledge for the citizens of an age of expansion and the discovery of new worlds.
Europe of the llustration of the Eighteenth Century generated a rationalist and scientific view of the world that accelerated the spread of books and readers, and of libraries as instruments of this new ethos. Libraries were catalysts for new ways to see the world, furthering trust in progress, reason, culture and education as the means to achieve human well-being. Those ideas spread to the Americas, generating the emancipation movements of the Nineteenth Century, the leaders of which looked to Europe and her ideas, assuming them as their own: democracy, liberty, equality, the rule of law, human and civil rights, all ideas that grew out of the French Revolution and found resonance in the educated communities of the Americas, including Chile.
The Nineteenth Century was key in the configuration of the modern state in Chile. The leading elites, defenders of the republican ideals of the llustration, were inspired by books brought from Europe and became founders of libraries that were to gather together and organize information and knowledge about the world and all its manifestations —scientific, literary, political, economic- among the first of which was the National Library of Chile, founded in 1813 and later that of the University of Chile, in 1842, which inherited the legacy of the University of San Felipe of colonial times.