Saturday, June 15, 2024

Koraes central public and historical library of Chios is one of the biggest libraries in Greece (ranked 3rd in the country) with 250,000 volumes approximately. Founded in 1792, it was originally an annex to the Great School of Chios. The library collection was built upon a body of books which belonged to Adamantios Koraes and his friends, a group of foreign and Greek intellectuals of the Diaspora.
Before the massacre of Chios in 1922, this was the most important library in the Eastern part of Europe and the Middle East. Following the 1881 earthquake, the library was relocated to its current building.
Adamantios Koraes (1748-1833) was the founder and the driving force behind the library. He was also the Great Teacher of the Greek Nation, whose intellectual achievements demonstrated a profound knowledge of the Greek language. He studied medicine in France although he never worked as a practitioner. He was a born philologist, who had a firm belief in the value of education, which, in his view, was a sine qua non condition to lifting the Ottoman yoke.
Although his father was from Chios, Adamantios Koraes never lived in the island. However, he would always sign his writings as Koraes from Chios.

Main entrance:
The library’s main entrance (main floor) is decorated with paintings which date between the 14th and the 18th century and consist mainly of watercolours and copperplate engravings.
Visitors will also discover a unique Mediterranean seashell collection, put together by John Quintana, Director of the British Telegraph Office in Chios (1901).
Our bookstore offers a variety of books published by local publishing houses and written by local authors. Potential buyers can also find an interesting selection of books published by our library’s publishing house, or by the -“Friends of the Koraes Library”- Foundation, along with postcards, posters and other prints.
On each side of the staircase leading to the Reading Room and the upper floor, the sphinx, Chios’ blazon, catches the visitor’s eye. It was discovered on some of the island’s old coins.

The Philip Argenti Collection (first door on the right)
This collection is made of books, maps, engravings, prints, paintings, medals, a small portrait of Philip Argenti as well as his wife’s (Alexandra-Helena Skylitis) silverware.
There is also a series of showcases comprising items which belonged to Konstantinos Amantos, a professor of history specializing in the Byzantine times and a member of the Academy. Additionally, the collection holds Leonis Kalvokoresis’ decorations and medals. Kalvokoresis was the Mayor of Chios during the German occupation (1940) and was known for his active involvement during this period (1940-1944).

Koraes Room (second door on the right)
This collection is made exclusively of books, which belonged to Adamantios Koraes and other benefactors.

Reading Room:
In the Reading Room, visitors will find the busts of the founders and benefactors of the library, its folklore collection and art gallery, namely Adamantios Koraes and Philip Argenti respectively. Koraes’ bust in marble was created by Ioannis Kossos in 1885, whereas Philip Argenti’s bust in bronze was created by sculptor Vasso Kapantae in 1977.
The first Greek flag to have been raised to full mast on the island in 1912, the year of the liberation of Chios, is kept in our library and is an important asset to its collection. It is hung on the right upper corner of the door leading to the Theotokas Room.
The history of this particular flag is very interesting. It was created by a young girl, Eugenia Madia, the daughter of Konstantinos Madias, a local doctor. When Eugenia saw the Greek fleet entering the port of Chios, she immediately run toward her chest to take out bits and pieces of clothing she had been keeping and then tried to piece them together into a flag. This explains why this particular flag is not in keeping with a typical Greek flag: colours are slightly off and there are 7 blue and white stripes instead of 9. Despite the flag’s unusual shape and form, the Commander of the Greek fleet was particularly touched by the girl’s gesture and decided to raise it on top of the building which housed the Greek Head Quarters.
All the walls of the Reading Room are decorated with the portraits of Chios’ intellectuals and benefactors, namely Adamantios Koraes, George and Tarsis Dromokaetes, Leuke Kalvokerasi, Andreas Syngros, Ioannis Andreades, Christos Rodokanakis, Stamatis Proeos, Nikolaos Paspatis, Leonidas Mihalos, Dora Proeou, Georgios Horemes, Alexandros Paxnos, Georgis Mihalinos and Konstantinos Amandos. Our library is also proud to possess a major scientific work produced between 1809 and 1822 by a team of researchers under Napoleon's patronage. It is the famous « Description de l’égypte », made of 14 volumes and several paintings (litho prints and copperplate engravings). It was offered by Napoleon to Koraes as a token of gratitude for the latter’s participation in the translation of Strabo’s Geography, the only geographical treatise of the time.
Napoleon’s « Description de l’égypte » and Yiannis Psycharis’ simple and austere desk are placed side by side. Psycharis was a distinguished writer from Chios and one of the most fervent advocates of demotiki (plain Greek language). His desk, penholder and clock are constant reminders of his unfatiguable production. Although he traveled around the world, he could only find peace in the loving arms of his motherland. He therefore requested to be buried in Chios so as to be near the sea and feel the breeze of the coasts of Ionia greeting him farewell during his “last voyage”.
Next to Psycharis’ desk are two showcases hosting a metal sample collection from the Northern part of the island. These samples were donated by the Kalouta family and came directly from their mine. Next to the various metals, there is another window case showcasing an astrolabe.

Georgios Theotokas Room (next door to the Reading Room)
An impressive 4,000-volume collection is there for the curious reader to discover. Special attention should be paid to the variety of the collection and the book classification, made by Theotokas. Many of the books have dedications signed by many of Theotokas’ friends, some of which were known intellectuals. At the farthest right end of the room, there is Theotokas’ desk and pictures of him and his second wife, Coralia Theotoka.
Finally, this room also hosts the Konstantinos Amantos archive collection and a rare document, namely the very first Middle School Diploma ever issued on the island.

First Floor
The lobby is decorated with paintings depicting two major historical events: the naval battle lead by the Squadron of the Imperial Russian Fleet in Chesme Bay in the morning of July 7, 1770, under the command of Alexey Orloff, —a series of engravings painted by R. Paton—; and the Massacre of Chios (1822), depicted by Delacroix in his famous “Massacre of Chios” painting. A copy of this painting is kept on the library’s first floor. There are also several copies of various Delacroix paintings and one lithography.
The other rooms of the Art Gallery are filled with portraits of members of Chios’ noble families. Paul Dubois, a French sculptor and a painter, holds a prominent place in the room. Many of his works are showcased and depict the following persons: Leonidas Argenti, son of Pantelys (1881) and his wife Ioulia Ralli-Argenti (1890); their daughter Maria-Ioulia (1877) and their son Pantelys (1879); a portrait of two of Pantelys’ children, namely Philip and Ioulia (1899).
Eustratios Argenti, one of Rhigas Feraios’ collaborators, Ioannis Argenti and some other members of the Argenti family were either hung by the Turks during the 1822-massacre or slaughtered.
Elsewhere in the room, there are additional portraits of the Argenti family, including two of the family’s sons, as well as Marouko, Adrianos and Ioulia. The Ralli-Skylitsi family, the Mavrokordatos family and the Argenti family had prosperous businesses abroad (India, England and Istanbul). The room also showcases a variety of items such as medals, coins, tablets, a 17-century Russian Cross, which belonged to Eustratios Argenti, miniatures and ivory busts of the Argenti familly.
One of the most important items of this collection is Maria-Ioulia Argenti’s bust created by Paul Dubois in 1876. In the middle of the third room, there are window cases with some of the Argenti family personal items, among which the sword of the Greek Diplomatic Corps that was given to Philip Argenti.

Three window cases hold porcelain models dressed with local costumes. These models were especially commissioned by Philip Argentis in/at the D. Court House of London. When the models arrived in Chios, Argentis ordered that their moulds to be destroyed to ensure uniqueness. At the farthest end of the room, there is unique embroidery, a bedspread from Rhodes donated by Pantelis-Philip Argenti.

Folklore Collection:
This collection comprises four major categories: embroidery, woven fabric, local costumes and wood carving items. These items go back to the mid-19th century up to the beginning of the 20th century. Window cases showcase all kinds of embroidery, such as çevre and bedding; male and female costumes from the villages of Pyrgi, and Kalamoti; a woman’s traditional costume from Elatas and a male traditional costume from Vrondados.
The visitor will also find a very interesting collection of woven fabric samples, representing everyday life scenes, from Pyrgi, Kalamoti and Mesta. Among the jewels of this collection there is a traditional wedding dress from the Ai Georgis Sykousis and a groom’s costume from Ai Giorgios Staphylas. Right across, there is a male costume and a wedding dress from Mesta. Next to these dresses, there is an everyday outfit from the village of Pyrgi and a woman’s traditional costume.

Wood carving items:
This collection is made of tools and utensils used by shepherds (milking pails and gourds), farmers (scythes and pitch-forks) as well as wool processing tools (distaffs, spindles and spinning wheels). The visitors can also become familiar with traditional kitchen utensils used in preparing and baking bread (trays, vats, buckets, yeast boxes and dough fermentation sheets) and other household utensils (mortars and pestles, spoons and plates)

Book stacks:
The Library has 5 book stacks filled with books, encyclopedias, journals and periodicals, newspapers, etc. The material is classified by categories and is made available to researchers, writers and the general public.