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The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  349 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Libraries are filled with magic. From the Bodleian, the Folger and the Smithsonian to the fabled libraries of middle earth, Umberto Eco’s mediaeval library labyrinth and libraries dreamed up by John Donne, Jorge Luis Borges and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Stuart Kells explores the bookish places, real and fictitious, that continue to capture our imaginations.

The Library: A Catalogu
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 28th 2017 by Text Publishing
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3.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  349 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway, 2017
I’m sure I have never come across a non-fiction book covering such an extensive amount of research on the history of libraries. Amazing!

Oh, I do love my books but I can’t say I’m addicted or obsessed in buying or collecting books as some of these collectors were centuries ago. The mind boggles at the extent some collectors went to to acquire books but they also gave me a good laugh.

This book will appeal to anyone who is an obsessive collector and hoarder of books and anyone wanting knowledge ab
Text Publishing
‘The Library abounds in fascinating tales of lost codices and found manuscripts, and the sometimes unscrupulous schemes by which people have conspired to obtain or amass valuable volumes.’
New York Times

‘I had been half expecting some sort of slide show, featuring gorgeous libraries of the world, but it’s not that kind of book. It’s more about the human drama of libraries, with gossip alongside anecdotes about the history of libraries.’
ANZ Lit Lovers

‘On a vivid tour of the world’s great librarie
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book and good information here but its mostly anecdotal and about famous people that happened to like libraries through history. Great for a light read and for some historical facts related to libraries , not for a in depth study of the state of libraries as such.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine going into a library you've never been to before to find something to read.

Some of the books are shelved in order of publication; except when they're not.

Others shelves share a common subject; except when don't.

There's no card catalog or database to help you find what you want in this mess and the librarians won't tell you where the books have come from.

That's what this book is.

It has no index, no cited sources, no narrative focus, and no mention of libraries outside of Europe and Ameri
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I went to a talk by this author at my local library and enjoyed this so bought signed copies of this book for a friend, my boss and myself. For that reason I was hoping this book would be good. I did enjoy most of it but with some reservations. Some of it was a little highbrow for my taste and read like lists of authors, scholars and libraries. When the author introduced anecdotal stories of libraries, authors and book collectors etc.. I liked it a whole lot more. Overall though a subject I am p ...more
Diane Challenor
I enjoyed every word in this book. It’s a treasure!
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It was a gift from a friend, from halfway around the world. It's signed by the author. It's about libraries! What's not to like? Unfortunately, the book was rather dry and erudite for my tastes. Interesting or amusing anecdotes scattered throughout the book kept me reading, but it felt really disjointed overall, like the author was listing examples without expounding on them. The book would've benefited from either editing down or expanding to a ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. Thanks to Goodreads and Text Publishing for my copy. What I liked best about this book were the quirky anecdotes about libraries and the bibliophiles who created them and what I struggled with was the vast amount of detail and dates and the rapidity in which they were delivered. I understand it’s a vast topic but I just can’t absorb that amount of detail. Most of all though I wanted pictures (maybe it’s just the visual learner in me)! As I was reading I had to Google images of the l ...more
Bethany Kok
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
A totally unstructured amble through the history of books and libraries, full of name-dropping and unexplained references. I should have stopped when I realized there were no citations or footnotes. The author barely touches on non-Western libraries but devotes more than a chapter to Tolkien's treatment of books and libraries in Middle Earth. Paragraphs are awkwardly linked and feature segues only a hair less clumsy and lurching than "speaking of ..." There must be a better book about the histor ...more
Angelique Simonsen
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
an unexpected delight though dry at times. I learnt the best fact ever though....that the Bodelian library and I were born on the same day 381 years apart! Must be fate that I am a librarian lol
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I approached Stuart Kells’ “The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders” warily. A book about books and book collecting? As much as I love books, I had little desire to lose myself in 250-odd pages about ancients, eccentrics and the vagaries of printing if the narrator came off as too pleased with himself, as bibliophiles sometimes do. (Listen, I resemble that remark.) Even the publishing business could be made dull, as I found with Robert Gottlieb’s tedious “Avid Reader.”

I needn’t have worried. Kells’
Natalie  S
A leading Australian bibliophile goes on a tour of thousands of libraries. The result isn’t a punchline but in fact a book called The Library by Stuart Kells. This volume is a fascinating text that draws together Kells’ scholarly essays on a range of different topics related to the storage of books, reading in general and different methods of communication through history. It’s an intriguing trip skipping through the history books and hearing about places that are so much more than a mere storer ...more
Luc Brien
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I first heard of this book while listening to an interview with Stuart Kells on Radio National, and I was so excited to see a copy in my local library. When I got it home and started to read it, however, I soon realised that this book was not for me. It's not so much a "catalogue of wonders" as it is a list of things that happened, some of which took place in libraries.
While there are definitely some interesting library facts in here (the re-evolution of libraries through the ages, for example),
Anne Fenn
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A fascinating read. Packed so full of interesting facts and figures about libraries, my head couldn't take them all in. Stuart Kells is an Australian booklover, and I often noted a little thread to Australia pop up in places all over the world. I liked that. He begins with Australian Indigenous peoples' form of library, then moves historically through many of the world's libraries, right up to modern times. There's a big emphasis on collectors of early manuscripts and books in all forms. Wealth ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A history of libraries! How could one resist? Parts of this were a trifle dull (like chronological lists of bequests to the Vatican Library), but other parts were highly interesting. I was kept busy looking up images of famous libraries he mentioned and they are fabulous palaces. I liked his recognition of the sensory impact that books have: their feel and smell (there was one series of young people books in my childhood that smelled like formaldehyde, and to this day, the smell takes me back). ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book by way of a Goodreads Giveaway and was initially interested in it due to the Australian link and, also, because I too love libraries. I didn't, however, find it to be the 'catalogue of wonders' it promised to be. The author is clearly a highly educated, scholarly person with a deep understanding of both libraries and books. While I was impressed at his wealth of knowledge on the subject of libraries, I personally found the book to be too highbrow and not as interes ...more
Natalie Romano
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5. This book provides a delightful survey of library history. Kells is a masterful storyteller, weaving together bookish anecdotes and fascinating data about libraries spanning from the Villa of the Papyri to J.P. Morgan's extensive illuminated manuscript collection. Serious scholars and recreational library users alike will appreciate Kells's thoughtful treatment of libraries - conceptual, physical, and fantastic - as institutions of social, intellectual, and anthropological importance thro ...more
victor harris
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not many " Wonders" in this. Some interesting and entertaining anecdotes but reads more like a list of books and how they were destroyed or stolen. No consistent story line, more pieced together segments.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Loved it! But, big surprise, I loved a book about books and the houses they live in.

Full review to come!


My full review can be found at: https://allthebookblognamesaretaken.b...
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, libraries
Anecdotal rather than comprehensive, this book is for readers who like serendipity. Kells includes wonderful bits of library lore (and from all kinds of libraries, private, public, Medieval, fantasy) and book collecting trivia. The segments on the evolution of the Folger Library and Tolkien's concept of the library as a symbol of civilization were particularly intriguing. Don't pick this up expecting a linear history of libraries. Kells' devotion to and knowledge of the book world is evident fro ...more
stephanie suh
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Libraries are more than boring stockpiles of books gathered, banal depositories of books collected frequented by socially gawky individuals we love to call “nerds” or “misfits.” They are symbolic fortresses of our human cultural progresses as a collective institution. In fact, libraries are precious repositories of our cultural wealth and knowledge inherited from the forerunners of the Humanities with prescient intentions to preserve the intellectual and anthropological prerogatives of the manki ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
‘Every library has an atmosphere, even a spirit.’

My own love affair with libraries started well over half a century ago. The libraries of my youth were places of magic, of possibilities to be explored. They were also places of refuge. But what are libraries, and how have they evolved over the centuries? In this book, Stuart Kells writes about libraries (both fictitious and real) and their influence on individuals, on literature and on culture more generally.

‘If a library can be something as simp
*I received this book from Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review*

This wasnt for me but I did appreciate how much hard work has gone into this book and I thank the author for a copy of this. It wasnt bad, its just not my style. Its packed with alot of information and some of the things talked about were interesting.
Pop Bop
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Like A Collected Series of Idiosyncratic, Themed Lectures

This is an engaging, wide-ranging, sometimes repetitive collection of thoughts, observations, and personal opinions regarding books, book making, libraries, book collecting, printing, paper manufacture, fictional libraries, shelving, and, especially, private libraries through the ages. If you might give some thought to dropping by on a Friday night at McCosh 10 to catch a lecture by that old slightly muddled but interesting professor from
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Despite the title, this book is not about The Library as a concept, but about scattered collections of books of interest to the author. He goes into great detail on the numbers of volumes acquired by the Vatican Library but has relatively little if anything of other great libraries. National libraries from the Library of Congress to the British Library get scant mention while individuals’ collections of books are described in detail. The author is a terrible name-dropper and sometimes seems to d ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This truly is a catalogue of wonders. Delightful. Except when it's horrifying - Kells does go into some of the atrocities that books and libraries have suffered. And the final chapter, looking towards the future, is appropriately apprehensive.

I was particularly attracted by the first chapters. Chapter One looks at oral traditions and the songlines, chapter two ancient books, with a lot of time spent in Alexandria. It would've been nice if the Kells could've continued to look at libraries outside
Today's post is on The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells. It is 269 pages long and is published by Counterpoint Press. The cover is a picture from the inside of a beautiful library. The intended reader is someone who is interested in the history of libraries, books, and humanity. There is no foul language, no sex, and no violence it in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- A love letter to libraries and to their makers and protectors, a celebration of books as ob
Mark Miano
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I stumbled across this book, THE LIBRARY: A CATALOG OF WONDERS by Stuart Kells, on the new arrivals shelf at my DC Public Library branch.

The book is a meandering history of libraries around the world and across time, from collections of stone tablets, to papyrus scrolls, to illustrated manuscripts, to modern day printed books. No matter what the bookmaking technology was, humans since the earliest times have collected, catalogued, and cared them.

Some even died for them! Wiborada, the patron sai
The "catalogue" in the subtitle possibly should have been a clue, but this book, though written in standard prose format, is more a loose collection of anecdotes relating to book collections (private or public) than any sort of sustained treatise. Every couple paragraphs will typically move to a new story that may just have a loose thematic relationship to what came before, and each chapter includes a mini-chapter at the end that usually doesn't even pretend to relate to the rest of the chapter. ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A TON of information that lacks both footnotes and an index

If you’re looking for a quick and dirty history of libraries, this isn’t your book. If you’re looking for a book filled with loosely connected annecdotes about the history of libraries, this could be your book. I’m a book lover and a library lover, but this book at times tried my patience. First of all, the organization of the book is often confusing (at least to me), and the sheer volume of names is difficult to keep up with. Also, beca
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  • The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History
  • The Library: An Illustrated History
  • The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home
  • You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf from Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia
  • The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
  • This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
  • Part of Our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library
  • Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions
  • Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile
  • Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy
  • In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians
  • Books: A Living History
  • The History of the Book in 100 Books: The Complete Story, From Egypt to E-Book
  • Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History
  • The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World
  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
  • Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History
  • The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
Stuart Kells is a Melbourne-based author. His history of Penguin Books, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, won the Ashurst Australian Business Literature Prize.
“And then there is the small matter of the Facetiae, the fifteenth century’s most scandalous book of rude jokes. Poggio wrote the Facetiae between 1438 and 1452. Some of the jokes are about church politics and current affairs. Most are about sex. Jokes about lusty parishioners, lecherous merchants, magical orifices, gullible patients, lewd factotums, randy hermits (St. Gallus must have turned in his grave), simple-minded grooms, libidinous peasants, seductive friars—and the woman who tells her husband she has two vaginas (duos cunnos), one in front that she would share with him; the other behind—for the Church. Building on this theme, Poggio’s joke number CLXXXI is an “Amusing remark by a young woman in labour.” In Florence, a young woman, somewhat of a simpleton, is on the point of giving birth. She has long endured acute pain, and the midwife, candle in hand, inspects secretiora ejus, in order to ascertain if the baby is coming: “Look also on the other side,” the poor creature says. “My husband has sometimes taken that road.” 0 likes
“Joke number CLXI presents a new theory about personal destiny. A quack doctor claims he can produce children of different types—merchants, soldiers, generals—depending on how far his member penetrates. A foolish rustic, hoping for a soldier, hands his wife over to the scoundrel, but then, thinking himself sly, springs from his hiding place and hits the quack’s backside to push his member further in. “Per Sancta Dei Evangelia,” the rustic shouts triumphantly, “hic erit Papa!” “This one will be Pope!” 0 likes
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