Philip's Reviews > The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World by Jacques Bosser
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Jan 01, 10

bookshelves: art, gifts
Read in January, 2010

This photographic celebration of lavish and historically important libraries is a pleasure to page through and imagine oneself lingering amidst the books, ornate staircases, and countless sculptures. Ranging from medieval monasteries through royal and national collections to some Victorian age showplaces, the book includes several fold-outs of particular rooms striking for their beauty or at least their ornateness.

Each library is introduced with brief historical notes on the people or institutions behind its building and current status. I found these vignettes very helpful in orienting me to the specifics of what otherwise could be a series of quite similar presentation of Baroque, Renaissance, or Enlightenment aesthetics of display.

Some of the soaring rooms reminded me (I must admit) of my favorite book porn of all time -- the sweep of the library Belle is finally given access to in Disney's Beauty and the Beast - rows and ranks of books rising forever!

There are some interesting omissions, such as the Reading Room of the British Museum (formerly Library). The book, published in 2003, includes only two of the places shown in the web-based photo series of the world's most interesting libraries that Ruth Bavetta pointed us to last year (link here), namely the monastery library of El Escorial in Spain and the New York Public Library.

But I was happy to find five places that I've personally visited either as a tourist or a researcher: the Vatican Library (Rome), the Senate Library (Paris), the Bodleian Library (Oxford), the John Rylands Library (Manchester UK), and the Library of Congress (Washington DC). There are at least two more pictured here that I still hope to see some day: The New York Public Library (in particular its Rose Reading Room) and Trinity College (Dublin) with its Book of Kells.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina This book sounds amazing, Phillip! I have always had a passion for libraries, from the public library where I got my first library card that had a long spiral marble staircase on the side of the library leading to the children's section. I felt as if I were going to the most magical place on Earth, and, of course, I was. Growing up in DC, I spent a lot of time doing research papers at the Library of Congress and it never failed to take my breath away. And of course, the library in Beauty and the Beast completely won my heart. Whenever anyone has any criticism of the movie, my response is always, "But he gave her a library!"


message 2: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue Sounds wonderful. Great review.


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