The beauty of libraries

September 17, 2007 at 3:00 am 2 comments

Sansovino’s Library, Rome ItalyMaybe only librarians can appreciate today’s post. Or maybe only people who appreciate grand design and history. On my travels, I’ve wandered into many a dusty old library in search of that awe-inspiring experience. As a librarian (first career), I’ve always been on the prowl for a library straight out of the medieval era – sweeping, arched ceilings covered with colourful Biblical scenes or portraits of Greek philosophers; rich oak-panelled shelves scaling up the walls, groaning with the weight of priceless manuscripts or woodcuts; shards of light piercing through stained glass windows and softly illuminating a bookstand in the middle of the library, displaying one of Gutenberg’s Bibles. I came across such a library in Portugal in 2004 – Biblioteca do Palacio e Convento de Mafra – with marble floors and elaborately carved mezzanine balconies. Very grand. Very Portuguese.

I was looking for a photo of this library the other day (duh, didn’t have my camera with me on that 2004 trip). And I stumbled onto a curious blog with an array of stunning photos of libraries around the world. The curious blog? It’s called Curious Expeditions: Travelling and Exhuming the Extraordinary Past. A welcome addition to my RSS feeds.

But check out some of the breathtaking photos of libraries – click on them to see fuller detail. Here’s the elegant Portuguese library I mentioned:
Portuguese library

And here’s a stunner – the Abbey Library St.Gallen, Switzerland: Abbey Library Switzerland

Not to mention the simply glorious Melk Monastery Library, Melk, Austria – gleaming with gold!

Melk Monastery Library

Go here to see all the wonderful photos on the Curious Expeditions blog – I’ve never seen so many beautiful spaces. It’s enough to make me consider going on a Grand Tour of Libraries in 2008!

Update: ThinkingShift good friend, Patrick Lambe, over at Green Chameleon has reflected on the Library of the Abbey of St Gallen image and posted a thoughtful piece on the sustainability of our digital knowledge world. Indeed, the image of this library (above) almost contains two worlds – the figures seem to be rushing through the library, fleeting, blurred images in the moment; the books are solid, static, preserved in time.

Entry filed under: Libraries.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carolyn  |  July 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Ohhhhh to have a good book and a corner of these old libraries. Just magic!

  • 2. mac  |  May 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Great pics – and great blog!! 🙂


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