A center celebrating arts and culture, the public Koraes Library of Chios is one of the largest in Greece and home to a number of historically significant and interesting collections including an art gallery and folklore exhibit. With a history dating back to 1792, the library was completely destroyed by the Turks in 1822 during the massacre of Chios. But under the guidance of Adamantios Koraes and a number of generous citizens who donated their private book collections, the library continued to exist even after this unfortunate event.
By 1871, the library’s archives included some 11,000 books, but the structure housing them was then again destroyed when a devastating earthquake struck the island in 1881. The new building erected not long afterwards in 1885 is the one that currently houses the Koraes Library of Chios today.
If you take the time to peruse the library’s unique book collections, you will find rare editions in excellent condition…books that used to belong to some of the island’s most prominent residents. In fact, a number of these individuals donated their entire private libraries to the cause, in the form of thousands of elegantly bound books, special manuscripts, and personal notes. A few include the Argenti family with 2,000 books, and the Theotokas family with 4,000 books.
The Koraes Library also includes a collection historical newspapers, magazines, city plans and maps published in Chios. And the library’s oldest publication, a book about the history of medicine penned in Latin, dates back to 1493. Another very unique treasure that can be found here is the Description de l’Egypte, a series of 14 illustrated volumes dating between 1809 and 1822 that were donated by Napoleon in honor of Koraes.
Besides a great collection of old and well-preserved books, the Koraes Library houses an art gallery filled with marble busts and framed oil paintings and portraits depicting prominent Chians, Greek heroes, and life on the island. On display in another room you will also find a number of folklore items including a collection of traditional Chian costumes, embroideries, woodcarvings, and textiles unique to the surrounding villages of Chios. The art gallery and folklore museum consist mainly of items from the personal collection of Phillip Argenti, who founded the Argenti Association in 1932 with a mission to preserve the history of Chios. The library also houses a photo and tape archive, a collection of shells and minerals, as well as a collection of heirlooms, coins, and medals.
Open to the public, you may visit the Koraes Library to check out a book, study in peace, or to simply enjoy the various displays and exhibits that celebrate the rich history of Chios.
To access a list of all donated books by donor name or to learn more about the library and its exhibits, visit koraeslibrary.gr.