Ptolemy Philadelphus, who interested himself very greatly in collecting
this library, wished to make it a complete collection of all the books
in the world. He employed scholars to read and study, and travelers to
make extensive tours, for the purpose of learning what books existed
among all the surrounding nations; and, when he learned of their
existence, he spared no pains or expense in attempting to procure either
the originals themselves, or the most perfect and authentic copies of
them. He sent to Athens and obtained the works of the most celebrated
Greek historians, and then causing, as in other cases, most beautiful
transcripts to be made, he sent the transcripts back to Athens, and a
very large sum of money with them as an equivalent for the difference of
value between originals and copies in such an exchange.

In the course of the inquiries which Ptolemy made into the literature of
the surrounding nations, in his search for accessions to his library, he
heard that the Jews had certain sacred writings in their temple at
Jerusalem, comprising a minute and extremely interesting history of
their nation from the earliest periods and also many other books of
sacred prophecy and poetry. These books, which were, in fact, the Hebrew
Scriptures of the Old Testament, were then wholly unknown to all nations
except the Jews, and among the Jews were known only to priests and
scholars. They were kept sacred at Jerusalem. The Jews would have
considered them as profaned in being exhibited to the view of pagan
nations. In fact, the learned men of other countries would not have been
able to read them; for the Jews secluded themselves so closely from the
rest of mankind, that their language was, in that age, scarcely ever
heard beyond the confines of Judea and Galilee.

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