- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Most Spectacular Libraries in the World
I have been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. My parents would sit and read me a story before bedtime, and I'd beg for another, and another, and "just one more, Mommy!"
Reading is one of the most important habits. Reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power.
There are scientific books that teach us so much about the world we live in, and the way things work. There are books containing maps that show how the world has physically changed over time. There are books filled with ideas about many different religions. There are books overflowing with historical accounts, that explain how things were and how things have changed. There are books for art, books for music, books for philosophy, and so much more.
Libraries aren't just places to store the books. The library is almost a sacred place. But what makes a good library? Is it a beautiful interior? Is it a modern design? Is it the number of the books?
Here, in no particular order, are some of the most magnificent libraries in the world.
The Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland
This library collection is the oldest in Switzerland, as well as one of the most important monastic libraries in the world.
The abbey and library were built in the 8th Century and named after an Irish monk. In 937, the abbey was burned to the ground, but miraculously, the library was undamaged. However, many of the books and manuscripts that were housed there were moved for safety as the Magyar empire grew, and not all of them were returned.
The library holds over 160,000 books, 2100 of which were written by hand. Nearly half of those handwritten books are from the Middle Ages, and many of them are over one thousand years old. Most of the library books here are available for public use, but any books printed before 1900 must be read in the reading room and are not available to be checked out.
Lately, there has been an ongoing project to make the priceless manuscripts available digitally for public use. There are around 200 manuscripts now available online.
One of the most fascinating things housed at the Abbey Library of Saint Gallen is the only surviving major architectural drawing from the High Middle Ages period. Known as the Plan of St. Gall, it was never built, but it was an ideal of what a well-designed monastery should be.
Jay Walker's Private Library
Jay Walker is an American inventor, entrepreneur, and chairman of research and development lab, Walker Digital. He is probably best known as the founder of Priceline.com.
He also is the owner of what he calls "The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination." The library is located in his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and contains over 50,000 volumes. In fact, Walker's home was specifically designed to accommodate this massive library.
Almost like a museum, the library is a multi-level maze, inspired by the art of M.C. Escher. Wired magazine has declared his library to be the best in the world. Some of the things you might see in Walker's library include: a chandelier from James Bond Die Again Another Day, the instruction manual for the rocket that launched Apollo 11 to the moon, a framed napkin from 1943 on which President Roosevelt outlined his plan to win WWII, the original "Thing" hand from the Addams Family, and the first published maps where Earth is not depicted as the center of the Solar System.
While Walker frequently hosts world leaders in business, government, science, medicine, and the arts, the library is not open to the public.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a commemoration and reincarnation of the great Library of Alexandria. The Library of Alexandria was the largest and most significant library of the ancient world. It held the largest collection of manuscripts in the world and was one of the greatest learning centers of the world. In the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes proved that the earth was spherical and calculated its circumference, Euclid wrote his elements of geometry, and Herophylus identified the brain as the controlling organ of the body. It is impossible to know what history was lost from the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built in 2002, although the idea of reviving the old library began to be discussed in the 1970's. The library is trilingual - including books written in Arabic, English, and French. The collections in the library were donated from all over the world.
The library has space for eight million books, and also houses a conference center, map libraries, four museums, four art galleries, a planetarium, and a manuscript restoration laboratory.
Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
The Trinity College Library, also known as "The Long Room," is the largest library in Ireland. The college was established in 1600, and the library in 1700, but many of the books and manuscripts housed in the library precede it.
The library is the permanent home to the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book written entirely in Latin. It contains the four Gospels of the New Testament, and was created by Celtic monks around 800 A.D.
In accordance with the Republic of Ireland's Copyright and Related Rights Act of 2000, the library is entitled to receive a copy of all works published in the Republic of Ireland.
Strahov Monastery - Theological Library, Prague, Czech Republic
The ornate libraries of the Strahov Monastery are among the most beautiful in the world. The monastic library holds over 125,000 volumes and is comprised of one of the world's best collections of philosophical and theological texts.
The architecture and design of this library is breathtaking. The ceiling in covered in elaborate frescoes... MORE MORE MORE
Visitors to the Strahov Monastery are also invited to see the ancient printing presses housed beneath the library.
The library is open to the public for an entry fee.
Central Library, Seattle
The Central Library in Seattle, the newest library featured on this page, is the flagship library of the Seattle Public Library system. Opened to the public in 2004, this eleven-story, structurally unique building made of steel and glass, was recently voted #108 on the American Institute of Architect's list of Americans' 150 Favorite Structures in the U.S. It has received much recognition for it's innovative architectural design.
This library is a unique mix of new and old, as this library is a modernized reincarnation of the library that once stood there, but became too small to accommodate the growing Seattle population. The architects designed the building as a celebration of books, deciding after extensive research that despite the influence of the "digital age," people still respond to books printed on paper. The design was specially conceived to be visually interesting and inviting to the public.
Some of the most popular features of the Seattle library are the Book Spiral - a four-story, continuous spiral of shelves that showcase the library's nonfiction collection, the Microsoft Auditorium, and many comfortable reading spaces. The library also features many modern twists, like automatic book sorting, computer lounges, and self-checkouts.
Library of the Benedictine Monastery of Admont, Austria
The library of the Benedictine Monastery is home to the largest monastic library in the world, and is famous for its long-established scientific collection. It contains 70,000 volumes (although the monastery overall houses 200,000 volumes.) The ceiling is adorned with Enlightenment era frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte, which show the stages of human knowledge up to Divine Revelation, and is one of the largest late Baroque works of art in Europe. Since the early 19th century, the Admont library has been referred to, at times, as the "eighth wonder of the world."
It is particularly famous for its carvings by sculptor Josef Stammel - the most famous of which is "The Four Last Things," over-sized representations of Death, the last Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
The library holds over 1,400 handwritten manuscripts. The oldest manuscripts were brought from St. Peter's Abbey (in Salzburg) as a gift from the Archbishop Gebhard.
George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland
The George Peabody Library is the 19th century research library of the Johns Hopkins University. It was founded by wealthy George Peabody, in honor of the kindness and hospitality of the people of Baltimore.
The books, of which there are over 300,000, reflect strongly upon the interests and ideas of the 19th century; however, the library also has a strong assortment of early printed books, cuneiform tablets, and a collection of Don Quixote editions.
The building was completed in 1878, but it recently underwent renovations to restore it's beauty.
The collections are available for public use, and the space is available for rental for events.
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the country. It is the largest library in the world based on shelf space and number of books - holding over 147,000,000 items.
The library was built for Congress in 1800 and housed in the U.S. Capitol through the 19th century, though it now takes up three full buildings. Though most of the original collection was destroyed during the War of 1812, the collection of books and history stored here has increased rapidly since. In fact, Thomas Jefferson sold his entire personal collection of almost 6,500 books to the library in 1815.
The Library of Congress is home to the largest rare book collection in North America. Some of the famous books and documents housed here include the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible (one of only four copies in existence,) 1 million issues of world newspapers that span the course of three centuries, and two rare Stradivarius violins.
The Library of Congress is open to the public, but only Library employees, Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, and high-ranking government officials are allowed to check out books.
Libraries are some of the most important places in the world, and these are just a few of the most exquisite, spectacular libraries in the world.
I'm just as happy in my hometown library - but these are some places I really would like to visit someday! Are your favorites here? Are there any that weren't included on the list that you think should have been?