The Most Spectacular Libraries in the World

The photos below were captured by Will Pryce for James W.P.Campbell’s  The Library. I originally saw them in an article from The Telegraph,but I wanted to share it on my blog.

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra, Portugal: Portugal’s João the Magnanimous astonished the rector of the University of Coimbra by telling him that his request for help towards library facilities was too modest; the lavish result was financed with gold reserves that had been recently discovered in Brazil.
The Liyuan Library, Jiaojiehe, China: Camouflaged into its surroundings, the library at Liyuan, two hours north of Beijing, has a facade of flexed twigs wedged between rusty steel rails. Inside, bookshelves are used as floor, stairs, seats and tables.
The Glasgow School of Art Library, Scotland: Every element in the library of the Glasgow School of Art (1909) was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who had taken evening classes in architecture at the university in 1883.
Mafra Palace Library, Portugal:  Since its opening in 1771, the Mafra Palace Library has been home to a colony of tiny bats; they roost behind the cases in winter, and in the orchard outside in the summer, swooping in during the night to eat insects which would otherwise damage the books.
Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris, France: Constructed in the mid-19th century, the Sainte-Geneviève library’s iron roof has echoes of the railway buildings of the time.
The Tripitaka Koreana, Haeinsa Temple, South Korea: In the remote Buddhist monastery of Haeinsa is preserved the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world, dating from 1251.
Admont Abbey Library, Austria: The books in the abbey’s original collection were re-bound in white – at enormous expense – to match the rest of the decorative scheme. The bronze sculptures are actually made from wood.
Shiba Ryotaro Museum, Osaka, Japan: Designed by Tadao Ando, the museum is home to the 20,000 books collected during his lifetime by the historical novelist Shiba Ryotaro.
Wiblingen Abbey Library, Germany:  The statues, which represent the virtues and the disciplines, and the columns are timber made to resemble marble (a technique known as scagliola).
The Codrington Library, All Souls College, Oxford: The library at All Souls was designed by Hawksmoor, though he did not live to see the building completed.
The George Peabody Library, Baltimore, USA: George Peabody was the founder of the charity which continues to finance housing for low-income families in London; he also endowed the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, of which this seven-storey library comprises just part.
The Theological Hall, Strahov Abbey, Prague, Czech Republic: The Rococo ceiling of the Theological Hall at Strahov Abbey was added 40 years after the room was initially completed; the masonry vaulting offered a degree of protection from fire – a huge problem in medieval and Renaissance libraries as coal or wood fires were used for heating.
The Escorial Library, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain: The Escorial’s was the first major library to have its collection arranged in cases lining the walls, rather than in bays jutting out at right angles.
Altenburg Abbey Library, Austria: This Rococo library (1742) was designed by Josef Muggenast to deliberately exaggerate the size of the collection; there are only nine bookcases housed in the library.
Biblioteca Malatestiana, Cesena, Italy: The Malatesta Library is the oldest library in the Western world to retain its original fittings and collection; it takes its name from a local tyrant, Malatesta Novello, who paid for it and oversaw its building between 1447 and 1452. The position of each book is fixed; the reader goes to the book rather than the book being brought by or to the reader.
Cottbus Library, Germany: Designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron, the Cottbus library features brightly coloured concrete spiral staircases.



19 thoughts on “The Most Spectacular Libraries in the World”

  1. This is fascinating, I never came across this before! I like the Eastern libraries, the European ones seem often overdecorated. The Oxford library is very gloomy, isn’t it?

    1. Well,let’s say that they are very ‘Baroque’.- a style meant to induce drama through the use of exaggerated motion.
      The Oxford library is indeed very very gloomy,but enticing all the same! 😀
      I was thinking of you when I was uploading the ‘Theological Hall’.Ah,you’re so lucky to have such architectures in your country.In this light,all Mauritius can pride itself on are its sunny beaches and palm trees!

      1. Beaches and palm trees would be just fine for me! I find myself unable to appreciate baroque style, it’s too much for me. I love for instance the architecture in Britain, the grey stone buildings are exactly to my taste. The Oxford library is gloomy, as I said, but also very dignified-looking, as a library should be. So at the end I do like it! On the whole, this is probably my favourite post of your blog so far 🙂

    1. Yep.The one from Japan is very atypical!I also love the one from Italy: ”the reader goes to the book rather than the book being brought by or to the reader”.

      As always,thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this virtual tour of world libraries. You’ve reminded me to look more closely at the surroundings and not just the books. But then, all the libraries I go to were built in the last few decades, not the last few centuries. Thanks for writing this post.

  3. Thank you for liking “Long Exposure Photography.” I am also impressed by the size and beauty of these libraries. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures of them. However, I am not sure I would visit the Mafra Palace Library because of the bats. 🙂

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