Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking at Libraries

Undoubtedly the most gorgeous book I own is The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World. It has stunning photographs by Guillaume de Laubier and text by Jacques Bosser.

It contains photographs of twenty-three libraries including the National Library of Austria in Vienna, The Mazarine Library in Paris, Trinity College Library in Dublin, and The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Although I have visited many of the cities mentioned in this book, for some insane reason I have only been to one of the libraries - The Library of Congress. (You can read about that adventure here.)

Here is what James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, wrote in his forward to this volume:

As you move through the pages of The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World, I urge you to keep in mind not only the beauty of these libraries but also the civilizing and educational power of books and libraries. The countries and cultures that built these magnificent structures have evolved, but the body of knowledge resting on their shelves is a large part of the human memory that will have future uses that we cannot yet foresee. This reminds me of yet another inscription that greets me before entering my office at the Library of Congress: litera scripta manet. The written word endures.

I will share with you some of the photographs in the book and perhaps one day we shall meet among their many treasures.

Cover photograph
The Great Hall of the Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

The Benedictine Abbey Library of Admont

Wren Library, Trinity College
Cambridge, England

Boston Anthenaeum
Boston, Massachusetts

Riccardiana Library
Florence, Italy


  1. Now my little homesick for Boston voice pipes up - and anyone following any of the blogs I comment on will say 'not her again! why doesn't she just move back to Boston and shut up!' I was a member of the Boston Athenaeum when we lived in Massachusetts. It's a quiet, beautiful place full of books and history. I'll be looking for this book. Thanks for introducing it to me.

    1. Hi Joan. I have been to Boston many times but never to this library. You must have fond memories of it. I am jealous! They don't build them like that anymore.

      The Big Online Bookseller has the book for sale. It is quite pricey but the photography is glorious. My amateur photos don't do it justice. Sometimes I leave it open on a table or my desk to admire at my leisure.

  2. Lovely photos. I'd love to study in any of these libraries. I usually miss going to the libraries when I am out of town, too.

    1. I tried to arrange a guided tour of the Bibliotheque Nationale when I was in Paris a couple of years ago but got no response. Anyway, the new modern library building is very ugly. So unlike the French!

      In my domestic travels, I do make an effort to check out the city libraries - if I have time after visiting the used books stores, that is.