The Permanent Library

The medieval Bergonians became prolific library builders (see right).  This penchant continues to the present day, resulting in the Tamo-Shiero, the largest library in the history of humankind.

   Tamo-Shiero means Permanent Library, an institution sponsored by Congress, with contributions from institutions all over the country.  Tamo-Shiero consists of these elements:

   The massive underground facility located just outside Chonato, in Paiatri.  This facility was built into what was once a huge underground salt mine.  It contains more books than any other facility in the world, and it is (with limits) open to the public.  It consists of 45 underground stories, with a network of elevators, galleries, stairs, vaults, and sitting rooms, though the vast majority of the space is given over to the stacks-- endless shelves of books.  It includes a huge air handling system, and has its own underground reservoir and power plant.

   The underground facility is sealed against electromagnetic disturbances (e.g. nuclear bursts), and contains copies of digital and other electromagnetic media, including government data, private records, historical compilations, and digital copies of movies, television broadcasts, radio shows, speeches, not to mention of the vast corpus of written work.

   Congress created the Permanent Library project in 1953, concurrent with world-wide fears of a nuclear cataclysm, and Tamo-Shiero was partly intended to preserve the nation's culture-- indeed world culture-- in case the nuclear powers went mad. It was designed to withstand a nculear war, and is therefore nicknamed the "Ark of Knowledge."

   Tamo-Shiero runs the nation's internet, Bergnet, devised parallel to development of the internet in the U.S., primarily for information-sharing between universities and government agencies.  With so much digitalized content, Tamo-Shiero is posting tons of classics, old works, & technical and scientific journals & reports on Bergnet 

   Tamo-Shiero sponsors all kinds of research projects, many in conjunction with colleges, and thereby gives summer jobs to thousands of college students across the country.

Additionally, all levels of government in Bergonia sponsor libraries, not just public lending libraries, but including specialized technical research facilities.  Because of Bergonia's many languages, translation services are crucial and have become excellent, so the scholars & librarians of this country have worked assiduously to render the entire body of work into all the relevant languages.  All the libraries and translation services coordinate with and are tied electronically into Tamo-Shiero.



The Word

The Bergonian Cult of Literacy



The Gospel of John asserts that "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God" (John 1:1-2), but no people anywhere on the planet have believed in the primacy of the word as much as the Bergonians. No culture has held quite as passionately to the idea that the word manifested universal essence as much as the Bergonians.

The Bergonians wrote with passion, sometimes compulsively, with a sense of urgency, believing that they had to write.  They recorded everything, whether trivial or grand.  They became the world's first historians, journalists, scholars (in the truest sense of the word) and bureaucrats.  Their ancient civilizations produced a huge corpus of works by means of an ingenuous variety of mediums.

Their love of the written word went far beyond the realm of means and method.  It was an essential part of their world-view.  The Bergonian creation myth holds that the first act of creation began with the creator god speaking.  Here the process of cosmic creation first yielded words, and then all else followed.  They exalted the written word as the very hallmark of civilization.

This was not just a sense of logos as in early Greek Christianity and Neo-Platonism, but the idea that the Gods devised humankind, and perhaps the universe entire, from the word.  The word was the seed for the world.  The word was the activator and the transformer of the world.  Thus, in Shufrantei thought, the Word was the Law, the Animator.

Shufrantei's idea of universal law conflated a Mosaic-like idea of written "commandments," and with "natural" deductible laws discoverable by observation, logic and contemplation.  When the myths describe how the Gods first spoke before doing anything else, they describe how their words gave definition to all things in the cosmos, completing the form of all entities.  First came the word and then came the referred object.  First came the word "human," and then came humanity.  Of course, the Bergonian subtly understood that a word included something much deeper than the combination of phonemes produced by the tongue in the mouth.  A word's sound, even the ancient Kuans understood, comprised merely its "skin," and the "heart" of the word beat within, alive and vital.  They understood the "heart" as that we call meaning.  Thus, at an early stage of their civilization, Bergonians touched upon what we now call semiotics.  The meaning of words, differentiated from one another by the webs of complimentary, synonymic and antonymic relationship formed the universe.  Western men frequently perceive language as a device for describing, that is reflecting or imitating, the universe, while the Bergonians developed the startling notion that the words came prior to the referred.  The relationships and characteristics of various meanings comprised the laws by which the universe (including humankind) operates (or in the case of humankind, ought to operate).  In a very Neo-Platonic way, the world of meaning preceded and determined the world of corporeality, and one could even take the idea to the extreme of concluding that what Westerners would call spirit actually lies in the meaning.  This thinking easily glides into and then subsumes the realm of symbols, so that the Bergonian perceived the relationship between a spoken word and the underlying meaning as identical to the relationship between the symbol and its underlying meaning.  Thus, while the sun shone brightly in the noonday sky, the Bergonian found it inexorably linked with the word "sun," and also inexorably linked with the "sun" fashioned out of gold and displayed in the temple.  In time Bergonians understood that the correlation also extended to the "sun" settled as a thought in the individual mind.

A linguistic example demonstrates in one small way how the Bergonians see things.  The modern Nacateca language uses semantic declensions to shape and transform nouns.  How the Nacateca word for "word" survives this transmutation deserves attention.  Peini means "word," employing the declensional suffix –i, which loosely indicates a discrete thing or object, certainly something perceivable, and including .  Peinai uses the suffix -ai for living, expanding things and means "meaning" or "idea."  Peino uses the suffix -o that means location or locus or geographical place, and means "referent" in the sense of "that to which a word refers." 

For example, one might ask in English, "What is a tolai?"  The literal meaning would not survive translation since Nacateca, as do all other Bergonian languages, as verb "to be," so the Nacateca speaker asks the same thing by literally asking, "where do I find (or see) a tolai?" and since tolai means cattle the listener points to a field of cattle.  Just to confuse matters, the reader might as well know that in Nacateca toli means a single cow, tolei means herd of cattle and toloi means "cow pasture."  The word tolai itself has a far broader meaning that encompasses all the other meanings.  Instead we find the meaning in the psychical cattle, that is, the sense of cattleness, as it exists in various forms in the material world and as it occurs reflected in the human mind.  The meaning is something other than the spoken word or the physical object itself, and both spoken word and physical object merely express the essence, the peinai.  The peinai emanates and manifests as the peini and the peino.

History of Writing & Literacy:

Kuans used colored ribbons in a system remotely similar to Incan quipu.  They carved ideograms into wood blocks, stone, clay tablets or any other medium they could manipulate, and also used brushes to write ideograms on parchment.  

The Lasa cities in the west manufactured paper and ink.  In time the Bergonians of ancient times devised many systems of writing-- ideographs, hieroglyphics, syllablaries (phonetic symbols representing syllables rather than single sounds, as in Korean), and alphabets-- all used in specialized profusion, and often in combination with each other. 

Anieri Crepoilo, the great Bergonian linguist (who equated formal logic with grammatical structure), boasted in 1908 that half the alphabets in the world, past and present, were Bergonian.  Anieri participated in the first systematic cataloguing of Bergonian alphabets—at least in modern times.  It concluded by listing 1,459 distinct systems of writing.  Some had been devised by specific groups, like tribes, clans, religious sects, professions and secret societies.  Others were recognized as appropriate for specific purposes—for example, one system of ideographs was devised by medieval traders all over Bergonia, so that traders and bankers speaking different languages would have a common method of communication.   Only 30 alphabets were intended for general use, and of these one came to prevail throughout Tan Era Bergonia—the Imonana Alphabet.

The priests and priestesses were literate, but the secular side of society needed the benefits of letters as well.  The temples transferred the skills of literacy to the secular aide by setting up schools.  From such schools emerged a class of scribes.  This first occurred in Kuan society (1000 to 300 BC) in service to the rulers and traders.  In the Nacateca west priests also trained the secular scribes—called secita.  Scribes in these ancient times carried writing sets, small wooden boxes neatly containing writing tray, brush, ink, blotter, and cloth.  A second wooden box held clean paper.  They sat cross-legged on hemp mats with the writing tray and recorded what others dictated to them.  Their servants handed them clean paper, saw to it that the ink dried without smudging, and stored the finished product.  The scribes saved their pages in leather and wooden folios, carefully bound in cloth or heavy paper with ribbons.   

In the east, during the Era of the First Ceiolaian Empire, larger temples (Nine-God Worship, not Shufrantei) always maintained a school, where priests & priestesses along with secita taught reading, writing, religion and history.  Some of these schools in the larger cities evolved into universities where philosophers, mathematicians, jurists and artists resided.  The Ceiolaian imperial government proudly supported them, and even founded the world's first engineering college.  It was on the edge of the universities in the Amota region (where Kuan civilization grew) that the secular theaters sprang up.  The Post-Kuan people of Amota became addicts to theatrical drama and comedy, as well a dramatic readings of poetry and epic verse, providing the market for thousands of written dramas, quite a few of which survive to us.   

Although the First Ceiolaian Empire in the east had a highly literate nobility, the Nacateca West was where the idea emerged that writing was sacrosanct.  The ancient banda warriors of the Nacateca people (before Ierecina) were expected to follow the precepts contained the very ancient, authorless Book of Anger, and as a corollary they were expected to be able to read it.  The Book of Anger and all the Ancita traditions taught that a “superior” man was a literate man.

  Ierecina, the great prophet, explicitly taught the spiritual value of language.  He provided the crucial metaphor of equating ink with blood.  The Shufrantei religion depended on the written word to record Ierecina’s words and life, the myths he handed down, an the rites he prescribed.  Neither he nor any of the minor prophets ordained any holy scripture as the inspired word of God, as did Christianity and Islam, but Shufrantei did evolve a great corpus of writing, much of it very beautiful and moving, and the believers treasured it all greatly.  As Shufrantei spread from west to east, so everywhere grew reverence for the written word.  The Shufrantei mind so firmly embraced the idea that personal worth depended upon literacy that virtually every man and woman desired literacy, even peasants.  Every priest and priestess was literate.  Every nobleman in Shufrantei Bergonia was literate, as was every nobleman’s wife.  A great many secita worked as teachers, either as tutors for the noblemen’s children (girls and well as boys), and his chief lieutenants and stewards, or as teachers in the schools springing up everywhere.  By the time the Prophet Ierecina started his seminal ministry, ancient Bergonians had developed numerous writing systems, some employed exclusively by priests, other by secret banda societies, and still others by governments.  These employed ideogramic, syllabic and phonetic principles. 

The Second Ceiolaian Empire and the Necruruean Empire (which together controlled virtually all Shufrantei Bergonia) both developed highly structured, very bureaucratic armies and civil administrations.  The two imperial Armies required every army officer and even the sergeants to be literate in the Army’s preferred language & alphabet.  It was during this Imperial Era (200-600 AD) that the secita—the scribes—became as a class both distinct from other classes (e.g. banda warrior, priestly class, the peasants) and as indispensable to society as any other class.  The Armies had warrior-scribes (banda-secita), who followed their commanders around in the field with portable writing sets and armed porters carrying paper, recording their commanders orders and writing messages.  In the field, even in battle, commanders barked out orders, which the scribes in attendance would immediately translate into a written note.  The armies had trained cadres of fleet-footed messengers—called selra—to carry written communications between units, and back to headquarters.  The selra were among the greatest athletes the world has every seen, judging by the scrupulously exact military records that record daily running distances of up to 30 miles.  The Army scouts no less impressively covered comparable distances, but over open country, often at night, to reconnoiter.  The chief scouts sometimes carried small writing sets and wrote dispatches for their subordinates to carry back to headquarters.)  Craftsmen guilds and trading houses mirrored the bureaucratic trend and retained secita. 

The secita during the Imperial Era expanded and refined their skills—producing many new specialist fields:  

Library science & systems for filing & retrieval, 

Accounting, budgeting, statistics & mathematics, 

Theology, philosophy & logic, 


Illustration & graphic arts, 

Mapmaking and surveying, and


—all these people had the legal designation of secita, and enjoyed all the attendant legal rights, certainly superior to peasants & common city-dwellers.  


The artisan class (which included engineers) combined with the secita, to produce mapmaking, architectural & engineering drawing, technical manuals & scientific writing of elegant terseness.  Even when the purely phonetic Imonana alphabet gained currency in the two Empires, the profusion of different writing systems persisted.  Because a relatively high percentage of Bergonians knew how to read, various specialized groups delighted in developing specialized writing systems as a bar to outsiders. 

  A few of the schools evolved into universities, funded by gifts from priestly orders and noble families.  The Ceiolaian and Necruruean Empires subsidized the universities.  Each of the two emperors maintained a military university as well, to produce the banda-secita.  The emperors and their ministers often commented sharply on whether these institutions were producing enough secita specialists, but the bulk of surviving edicts, correspondence and budgets make it clear that a real passion for learning motivated the imperial investment in the universities.  The universities built libraries, and then in 325 the Ceiolaian Emperor Secien started work building the great Tufralan library, five cavernous stories surrounded by beautiful marble.  After its completion and opening it was said that sometimes visitors got lost inside the stacks and never found their way out.  The secita in later years joked about finding piles of bones among the shelves.  

When the two big empires disintegrated (after 600 AD) the successor governments and armies continued their bureaucratic practices, and in fact refined them.  “Bureaucratic” in the Bergonian sense did not infer hierarchical chains of command and procedure as much as it meant simply the necessity of recording everything.  Secita were everywhere—in the army, the civil administration, the trading houses, the markets, the factories and mines, and in the houses of powerful nobles.  They preserved the works of their predecessors with assiduous care, copying older manuscripts with critical attention and with no lack of resources.  It was during this period (500-1000 AD) that the big libraries emerged everywhere, independent institutions usually affiliated with a university and supported by the state.  Priesthoods, emperors, tieris, banda orders and even private houses of nobles and traders expended copious resources to help build these libraries.  The construction of these institutions were Bergonia's equivalent of Europe's building of the great gothic cathedrals.  The libraries were usually controlled by a council of nobles and secita.  The largest of them employed as many as four hundred secita.  Indeed, people during this time exalted the scribe as preserver of civilization, equal to the priest and warrior.  

 The Ceiolaian government, in medieval times ruling a small fraction of the territory controlled earlier by the Second Empire, maintained at great expense the Tufralan Library.  Other big cities, now the capitals of fragmented, smaller states, built enormous libraries as well, often in conjunction with their universities.  Every government had an archive, and in time the archives grew so big that the governments moved them into the libraries, and often rebuilding them to accommodate the growth.  The libraries became centrally important to the life of the medieval communities and regions.  They served as official registries for contracts, birth, marriage and death lists, deeds, official edicts and laws.  The upper classes had fairly free access to the holdings, as did priests and secita.  If a commoner wanted anything, he often consulted with a secita (a librarian) who either showed him the books or retrieved the information for him.   The buildings were vast, rambling places, very comfortable, and solidly constructed of brick and stone.

  The medieval institution of firefighting as a profession grew up initially as a safeguard against fires in the libraries.  In most medieval cities the firefighters headquartered themselves in the library.  Even the most destructive of historical turns-- the hideous plagues of 1550-1660 and the ascendancy of the Europeans-- resulted in only modest loss to the written heritage.  The Bergonians managed to avert serious loss by redundancy: conscious of what fire and ill will could do, the various libraries traded holdings to insure that the loss of any single library would result in littlwe loss of the written heritage. They also avoided much of the loss by a unique method of writing on metal.  This they did, of course, with fire in mind.  They hammered out thin sheets of tin and etched out text in small strokes.  They bundled the metal pages with wire and stored them in rectangular containers made of terra cotta-- with no flammable materials.

  Whenever Bergonians suffered economic collapse, war and the occasional outburst of berserker terror, their commitment to preserving the written word never failed.  Indeed they rarely wavered in their devotion.  Rulers, even when suffering tax shortfalls, even in the midst of famine, always stubbornly assured enough funding for the library at the sacrifice of other priorities.  A ruler short of funds often beseeched his subjects to make special contributions directly to the scribes.  Conquerors and rebels might set fire to the tieri's palace, the market, maybe even the temple, but never the library.  It was, of course, a great prize for a conqueror or usurper, the greatest of the spoils, something he would want to preserve.  Moreover, no defender facing defeat ever in the known history of Bergonia ever torched books to keep the enemy from getting them.  When all hope expired, they would flee the library rather than fight and bleed near the books.  Even the most successful, and most atrocious conquerors, Prakai Eleusi,  

  Though priesthoods, secret societies, the military, specialized bureaucracies and other institutions devised their own methods of writing and symbolic notation, the Second Ceiolaian Empire employed the Imonana alphabet so commonly that everyone but the most ignorant knew its letters.  The superstition evolved that even the very letters of the Imonana possessed living personalities, and embodied particular characteristics mirroring the universal elements, much like Nordic Runes, much as the Hebrew letters form the Kabala.  The Imonana letters reflected the calendar, and visa versa.

  By Tanic times (1100 AD) even large numbers of peasants were literate enough to read the holy books.  Paper was one of the most heavily traded items in Pre-Columbian Bergonia, and bookmaking a highly revered craft.  

The first European journals describing Bergonia in the 1500s repeatedly remarked on the degree of literacy among the natives, and on the speed by which the natives acquired usage of the Roman alphabet.  It is beyond all question now, though once many Western scholars hotly denied it—that by the time Columbus came upon the Coninpati coastline, a higher proportion of Bergonians could read than in any part of Eurasia, and that Bergonians had accumulated a far larger store of written material than had any Eurasian culture.  

  In the 1500s the Bergonians themselves wrote fascinating accounts of the European explorers, missionaries and conquistadors.  (They never failed to mention the European's filthiness and bad smell.)  Atrei scholars wrote grammars of the three European languages (and Latin too) in both Minidun and Nacateca, and did so long before anyone wrote grammars of the Bergonian languages for Europeans. 

  Catholic righteousness caused the wholesale destruction of Mayan and Aztec literacy.  The same destructive fervor struck at Bergonian culture too.  Conquistadors tried to burn the libraries, but they found themselves utterly amazed at how vigorously the atrei (natives) defended them.   The atrei would allow the conquistadors to overrun cities and forts, but they would make their last redoubts at their libraries.  Thousands of atrei were willing to die to keep the books safe from the conquistador torches.  In many cases whole libraries were packed into boxes and bundles, and transported on the backs of thousands of volunteers inland, to stone fortresses and into caves and tunnels.  There were incidents when crowds of women and children rushed along paths or allies clutching books as their men fought the mounted conquistadors with pikes and other crude weapons.   People sacrificed their lives preserving documents as arcane and removed from their personal lives and interests, such as 400-year-old agricultural records, six hundred year old travelogues, or 800 year old military communiqués about logistics.  The conquistadors and their accompanying priests & friers succeeded in burning many libraries, but they found the task of cultural murder too daunting, even in plague-stricken Bergonia.  This culture had accumulated an enormous corpus, not very easy to extinguish.  The libraries were too numerous and claimed too much popular support.  The Spaniards were the worst of the European lot, and the Amota region, where the Spaniards held sway, suffered the worst of the destruction.  But even the Spaniards found the violent reactions too costly.   One Jesuit wrote, "The Bergonian erects a temple to his idols, as do heathens everywhere, but we should not be drawn from the scent, because the Bergonian actually worships at his library."

Though the contents of most libraries survived the onslaughts, atrei bravery could not resist the plagues.  As corpses accumulated everywhere, atrei institutions (governments, trading houses, factories, universities and schools) in most places collapsed, or existed in shadowy, impotent remnants.  But wherever there was any strength and organization, the people defended the books.  The survivors who persisted in defending the libraries left their own journals and documents, which show that they were fearfully and acutely conscious that they were seeing the death of their civilization.  It was their conscious mission to make the libraries the “Arks” for the civilization's survival.  Thankfully, before the time the plagues began killing, many Catholic missionaries had become interested in preserving and protecting the libraries themselves.

  Atrei scholars, as the plagues commenced their first fury, were translating every French, Spanish and English book they could get into their own languages, well before more than a handful of Europeans had developed any facility in the Bergonian languages.  The Jesuits, Franciscans and other missionaries converted some of the very literate atrei and began exploiting their skills.  The Jesuits approached the libraries with respectful curiosity, and were the first Europeans admitted to them.  In some cases the Catholic missions assisted in their preservation during the 1600s and 1700s.   Thankfully, they influenced the European colonial regimes then settling into place along the coasts, and finally procured official protection for the libraries.  As a result, even though the plagues killed 90% of the atrei population, probably 60% of the atrei libraries established before the plagues and colonization survived them to modern times. 

It is thus beyond all doubt that a much larger store of writings has survived to our time from Pre-Columbian Bergonia than from pre-1500 Europe, China or any other Eurasian civilization (much to the joy of Bergonian historians), thanks to the special Bergonian passion for the written word in all its forms.   As a result, we now actually know more about ancient Bergonia than we know about ancient Rome or Greece, because of the comparative sizes of the respective written corpuses.


To the top of the page