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The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  98 reviews
A love letter to libraries and to their makers and protectors, a celebration of books as objects, and an account of how the idea of the library continues to possess our imagination

Libraries are much more than mere collections of volumes. The best are magical, fabled places whose fame has become part of the cultural wealth they are designed to preserve.

Some still exist tod
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Counterpoint Press (first published August 28th 2017)
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3.43  · 
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 ·  433 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
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 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
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
David Eppenstein
I have a thing for books. Not just the reading of them but the physical existence of them; the possession of them; the sight of them; the smell, the weight, the texture. I really like my books. So when I came across this little gem there was no question as to its purchase. I added it to my "Books About Books" shelf to be read another day. That day recently arrived and I'd like to tell you what I discovered.

I can't really say what I expected from this thin little volume of 264 pages of text. I su
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bethany Kok
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
Diane Challenor
I enjoyed every word in this book. It’s a treasure!
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Angelique Simonsen
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
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’
Jennifer (JC-S)
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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...
victor harris
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.
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
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
*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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sort of a pastiche of anecdotes about book-collecting and -cataloguing and -housing (and -stealing, and -burning -- every other page, disaster is striking). It includes descriptions of fictional libraries too (Borges, Eco).

Some of the content seemed gratuitously prurient and some merely gratuitous. (Including aboriginal songlines in a book about libraries stretched the seams of the topic, I think, without enlightening the reader much at all. Maybe it was written in for PC reasons? I was intrigu
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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
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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.” 1 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!” 1 likes
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