Jerome's method as a commentator was framed explicitly in terms of reliance on earlier authorities. By making the citation and paraphrase of a range of earlier writers' works central to his scholarship, Jerome made possession of a considerable library essential. Books in antiquity were very costly. Their acquisition in the numbers that Jerome required would have demanded access to the kind of fortune that, in antiquity, was more often inherited than earned. Furthermore, the possession and use of books was in itself a marker of membership in the elite, from which the monk was supposed to have cut himself off. This chapter considers the contents of the library at Bethlehem in comparison to other ancient book collections. The inventory begins from Jerome's explicit references to books in his possession, takes in the evidence of source-critical studies of his works, and considers also the books that Jerome probably had on hand but did not use as sources.
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