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The Library: A World History

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A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Libra A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Library in Finland, to the ancient ruins of the library of Pergamum in modern Turkey, the architecture of a library is a symbol of its time as well as of its builders’ wealth, culture, and learning. Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere.  Together, Campbell and Pryce have produced a landmark book—the definitive photographic history of the library and one that will be essential for the home libraries of book lovers and architecture devotees alike.


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A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Libra A library is not just a collection of books, but also the buildings that house them. As varied and inventive as the volumes they hold, such buildings can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves found in mystery stories or the catacombs of stacks in the basements of academia. From the great dome of the Library of Congress, to the white façade of the Seinäjoki Library in Finland, to the ancient ruins of the library of Pergamum in modern Turkey, the architecture of a library is a symbol of its time as well as of its builders’ wealth, culture, and learning. Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere.  Together, Campbell and Pryce have produced a landmark book—the definitive photographic history of the library and one that will be essential for the home libraries of book lovers and architecture devotees alike.

30 review for The Library: A World History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Not only a really fantastic book to look at, with its abundance of pictures of old and modern libraries, but also a balanced resumé of the history of library-architecture. The focus is on the buildings, but indirectly you also get a lot of information about the evolution of books and of collections themselves. From now on I'll look in a different way when I enter a library: the position of bookcases and tables, the distribution of space, the illuminance, all have their own background, value and Not only a really fantastic book to look at, with its abundance of pictures of old and modern libraries, but also a balanced resumé of the history of library-architecture. The focus is on the buildings, but indirectly you also get a lot of information about the evolution of books and of collections themselves. From now on I'll look in a different way when I enter a library: the position of bookcases and tables, the distribution of space, the illuminance, all have their own background, value and history! And of course, it's a divine temple where the most sacred of all things created by man is kept and cherished: books!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Forrest

    It would be easy, yet criminally dismissive, to merely tell you about how gorgeous the pictures are in this book. Don't get me wrong, they are gorgeous, and those who are addicted to "book porn" will need a lifetime of therapy to get unhooked, but this book is so much more than pretty pictures. A simple chronology doesn't do it justice, either. Yes, Campbell outlines the history and evolution of libraries from the earliest antecedents in Mesopotamia to the most modern libraries of both hemisphere It would be easy, yet criminally dismissive, to merely tell you about how gorgeous the pictures are in this book. Don't get me wrong, they are gorgeous, and those who are addicted to "book porn" will need a lifetime of therapy to get unhooked, but this book is so much more than pretty pictures. A simple chronology doesn't do it justice, either. Yes, Campbell outlines the history and evolution of libraries from the earliest antecedents in Mesopotamia to the most modern libraries of both hemispheres (with the notable exception of the University of Chicago's Joe and RIka Mansueto Library - I guess you can't cover them all in one book). But this book is much more than a simple history. Really, the core of the book is the manner in which mankind goes about collecting, protecting, and cataloging knowledge in written form. It is not comprehensive, and the underlying themes are presented in such a subtle way as to go almost un-noticed amongst all the data that is presented. But make no mistake about it, Campbell's work here is not a mere recounting of the many buildings that make up the libraries of history. It is a map through the maze of the ever-changing ideas of privilege, egalitarianism, the interface between civilization and nature, the interplay between trust in the good of mankind and the fear of man's greed, and the monumental (I use the word literally) expression of the human race's physical interaction with the texts of its intellectual achievements and struggles. There are intriguing tidbits that point the way through this maze, but they are never obvious or pedantic. For instance, the earliest monastic libraries housed the collected knowledge of much of Christian civilization to that point, but it was in these same libraries that books were chained to desk-mounted rods in order to prevent theft or, more likely, the temptation for an enterprising monk to sell books to an outsider (It took the skins of 250 sheep to make enough parchment for a copy of the Bible), spurning his vows of poverty. Here, we don't just have a clinical recounting of methods of theft-prevention, we have an emblem of the internal struggle between religiosity and human nature. And though libraries were open to the "public" (read: "good" citizens) back in the Renaissance, it wasn't until the 1890's that library patrons were routinely allowed to browse books. Both of these factors (chained books and controlled patronage) had profound effects on the physical building itself. Campbell's specialty is architecture, not information science. I was fascinated by his take on the building of libraries, but a little disappointed at the lack of emphasis on the collections themselves. Still, without buildings, you have no library. The skin and bones are important, as they contain the other organs and protect them from the outside environment, as well as providing a chassis in which the engine can operate. But my metaphors are getting away from me. Forgive me. I'm slipping into metaphorical usage because I want to highlight the danger of reading this work as a straight data set, which would confine it to beautiful banalities. And, again, it is so much more than that. This book is a treasure-chest (it better be, for what I paid for it!). This became apparent before I even received it, as it was backordered through University of Chicago press not more than a month after it was published. Apparently there was a greater demand than the press anticipated, probably based largely on the lovely photographs contained therein. The beauty of the artifact itself is obvious. But the hidden beauty, what I would term the "deep knowledge" hidden between the interstices of the text, that, THAT is where the real treasure lies! And there's plenty to go around . . .

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leonard

    This is an AMAZING book, perhaps the one I loved the most of any I've read or looked at recently. The author and the photographer combine their talents and give the reader a look at the history of libraries in the world. This would be fascinating book without any pictures but it contains scores of fabulous photos of libraries from over 20 countries. Some are very old and others newer, but all are unique and original, like any good book. We see libraries hundreds of years old where each book is c This is an AMAZING book, perhaps the one I loved the most of any I've read or looked at recently. The author and the photographer combine their talents and give the reader a look at the history of libraries in the world. This would be fascinating book without any pictures but it contains scores of fabulous photos of libraries from over 20 countries. Some are very old and others newer, but all are unique and original, like any good book. We see libraries hundreds of years old where each book is chained to the shelf so it can't be stolen. Then there are libraries like the one in Portugal where colonies of tiny one-inch-long bats patrol the bookshelves at night eating insects that might harm the books. Of course someone has to sweep the floor every morning. A lot of the most elaborate and colorful libraries are located at Abbeys in Europe. As the author points out it will be interesting to see how libraries change in the future and if they will still be called libraries…and still have books. This one deserves six stars!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Total visual decadence, and very informative at the same time. As the title indicates, the book traces the physical history of the library: its architecture, ornamental design and fittings. The first chapters are understandably somewhat conjectural because almost all physical traces of the libraries of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Eastern and Islamic worlds are gone. But the authors describe what can be inferred from references and archaeology. Still, there are fabulous photos of the Total visual decadence, and very informative at the same time. As the title indicates, the book traces the physical history of the library: its architecture, ornamental design and fittings. The first chapters are understandably somewhat conjectural because almost all physical traces of the libraries of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Eastern and Islamic worlds are gone. But the authors describe what can be inferred from references and archaeology. Still, there are fabulous photos of the library remains at Pergamon and Ephesus and the Tripitaka Koreana, with its wooden printing blocks for Buddhist texts, in South Korea. Then the book describes medieval libraries and moves on to explain how libraries evolved, century by century, beginning with the Renaissance. The photos of libraries in monastaries, universities, palaces, and cities are drop dead gorgeous. They exemplify the gradual evolution of storage and reading spaces from books fixed to a one-person lecturn space, to stalls, to walls, to stacks, to the modern mix of media and hard copy. The authors also discuss the rise of librarians in library design, lauding their practical insights as a necessary corrective to earlier architectural neglect of operating and preservation issues, but cautioning that practicality can take the soul out of library design. The stunning visual and text examples come mostly from the United States and Europe, with some modern examples from China and Japan. Any reader who has fantasized that winning the lottery will mean he or she can immediatly start ordering everything on their ‘to read’ list will love the acres of neoclassical, baroque and modern book shelves, columns, reading halls, mosaic floors, domes, murals, etc etc. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but for shelving I think the library of the Abbey of St Gall in Switzerland gets my vote. I can never get images into these reviews, but you can see several of the libraries described and photographed in the book at this website that presents 25 fabulous libraries: http://art.ekstrax.com/2013/08/worlds...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    4,5 stars This book was my dream: wonderful libraries full of books and progressively open to the public. I loved to progress chronologically, and to discover the evolutions and changes in the history of libraries. I was more drawn to the pictures than to the text - at times, it described the library, and I don't think it was necessary as there were photos to see just how it looked like, and the captions were sometimes just repeating what the text said. I now would like even more than before to 4,5 stars This book was my dream: wonderful libraries full of books and progressively open to the public. I loved to progress chronologically, and to discover the evolutions and changes in the history of libraries. I was more drawn to the pictures than to the text - at times, it described the library, and I don't think it was necessary as there were photos to see just how it looked like, and the captions were sometimes just repeating what the text said. I now would like even more than before to travel the world and visit the most beautiful libraries! (and to get my own at home, of course!)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘Libraries can be much more than simply places to store books.’ This book provides an architectural history of library design, from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern world. The text and the glorious accompanying photographs trace the development of libraries in response to the way information was created and stored, the needs of scholars and readers, and the practical and aesthetic aspects as well. The book includes exploration of library needs from the clay tablets and scrolls of antiquity, throu ‘Libraries can be much more than simply places to store books.’ This book provides an architectural history of library design, from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern world. The text and the glorious accompanying photographs trace the development of libraries in response to the way information was created and stored, the needs of scholars and readers, and the practical and aesthetic aspects as well. The book includes exploration of library needs from the clay tablets and scrolls of antiquity, through medieval European libraries where manuscripts were chained to shelves or desks, the different requirements of libraries in medieval Asia, as well as the lavish and intricate baroque and rococo designs of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the (usually) more utilitarian spaces of the 20th and 21st centuries. ‘One element that sets libraries apart from most other architectural spaces is the primary importance of their furniture and fittings.’ Most of the libraries included are beautiful and grand places, not much like the late 20th century libraries I am familiar with. Some of them are (or were) very sensibly designed spaces for the storage of books but not really practical for readers. Others look more like art museums than book repositories. All of them look like places I’d like to visit. ‘Books are only part of the problem. The main spaces of libraries, the reading rooms, often present considerable structural challenges.’ I enjoyed the information that James Campbell included in the text, including: the fact that colonies of bats are used to control pests in the 18th century libraries in Coimbra and Mafra; the fact that a Korean library in the Haeinsa Temple has safely stored the wooden printing blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana for almost 700 years; and the fact that ‘better, modern, climate-controlled buildings’ purpose built in 1972 proved unsuitable, and the blocks were returned to the original buildings. ‘Libraries have been in a state of continual change for centuries.’ Librarians and those who study information and its repositories will find the book interesting and informative. Those who admire libraries and are interested in their history will enjoy the book, as will those who enjoy beautiful photography of glorious spaces. I love this book. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  7. 4 out of 5

    Harry Roger Williams III

    It is impossible to open this book without drooling at the imagination, beauty and splendid architectural diversity of the libraries portrayed. Pages 236-238 include three sumptuous pictures of the Thomas Crane Library and a description of it as “the most successful” of Henry Hobson Richardson’s “designs for small public libraries in the United States.” The author and photographer visited 82 libraries in 21 countries. In their acknowledgments they thank 74 “directors and staff…for giving us thei It is impossible to open this book without drooling at the imagination, beauty and splendid architectural diversity of the libraries portrayed. Pages 236-238 include three sumptuous pictures of the Thomas Crane Library and a description of it as “the most successful” of Henry Hobson Richardson’s “designs for small public libraries in the United States.” The author and photographer visited 82 libraries in 21 countries. In their acknowledgments they thank 74 “directors and staff…for giving us their permission, help and advice.” My personal, petty, pouting gripe is that my name is not among those 74. I expressed delight that Thomas Crane would be one of a very few American libraries in the book, and personally gave them a tour and permission to “shoot away.” Did I insult them by saying (as I did to everyone who ever requested permission to photograph the library) “You must not disturb library patrons or photograph them without their permission?” Bruised ego aside, I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who loves the physical buildings that house our species’ aspirations. (At $75.00 you may want to borrow it from, well, you know…)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    AN ABSOLUTE MUST-SEE FOR ALL BIBLIOPHILES. I am the very proud owner of this gorgeous tome. It is a massively heavy, jumbo-sized compendium of photographs and stories about the history of libraries. The whole multi-thousand-year history. You will never find more bookshelf porn in one volume anywhere else. I spent weeks poring over the pages of this book. I read every chapter and every caption. I made my loved ones listen to me regurgitate most of that. I made a select few loved ones sit down wit AN ABSOLUTE MUST-SEE FOR ALL BIBLIOPHILES. I am the very proud owner of this gorgeous tome. It is a massively heavy, jumbo-sized compendium of photographs and stories about the history of libraries. The whole multi-thousand-year history. You will never find more bookshelf porn in one volume anywhere else. I spent weeks poring over the pages of this book. I read every chapter and every caption. I made my loved ones listen to me regurgitate most of that. I made a select few loved ones sit down with me and look at the pictures with me. I raved about the book to complete strangers. I work in a library and I have a masters in library science and I thought I knew about libraries.... and I learned so much while reading this book. I now have so very many aspirations for my imaginary if-I-win-the-lottery home library. Equally dangerous (you will want to visit so many libraries the world over) and fascinating (so many secret passageways in so many libraries), this is, I repeat, an absolute must-see for all bibliophiles.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    Attention all bibliophiles: acquire this book now, by any means. Beg your librarian on your socially distanced knees, if need be, to add this splendid volume to the collection, for the good of the public. (If you’re on this website and not a bibliophile, I promise The Library will convert you to the aesthetic of bibliophilia, if not bibliophilia itself.) Oh, my heart. Who doesn’t love a good library? Who hasn’t decorously salivated over the Beast’s library with Belle? Who hasn’t stood between rows Attention all bibliophiles: acquire this book now, by any means. Beg your librarian on your socially distanced knees, if need be, to add this splendid volume to the collection, for the good of the public. (If you’re on this website and not a bibliophile, I promise The Library will convert you to the aesthetic of bibliophilia, if not bibliophilia itself.) Oh, my heart. Who doesn’t love a good library? Who hasn’t decorously salivated over the Beast’s library with Belle? Who hasn’t stood between rows of books and just breathed? Perhaps folks unfortunate enough to have been born before mass book production. But we do not live in such days! What riches have we to explore with the intrepidity of Cartier and ponder with the thoughtfulness of Descartes! On top of this, in the days of ridiculously high-quality digital photography and full color printing, we can peruse the finest libraries in the world from the comfort of our own humble home libraries. I mean, just read the description: it promises not overmuch! The one sin is that of history, which has prevented us from seeing the original library of Alexandria. If you’re at all interested in libraries, the history of architecture, or just proper good photography, this is the book for you. While I’m filing it with other books about books, it’s really a book of architectural history, not a book on the history of libraries as such. The signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 has become, to me, a lesser historical event than the completion of the Admont Abbey library in Austria: Revolving sutra cases are awesome (Mii-Dera Temple, 15th century, Japan): It no longer revolves, but it once did. “Each complete turn was thought to be equivalent to reading the whole Bhuddist canon once.” (69) Wiblingen Abbey Library (Germany, 1774) really does put the bling on: I crave an afternoon reading fairytales in the Liyuan Library (2012, China): Yes, that is a fireplace! While I’d never want to live in one of these hallowed halls, I do wish I lived within walking distance of each and every one, with constant access. Alas, geography permits it not. But a reader can dream.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    It took me FOREVER to get through this. Partially, it’s because the book was requested by someone else and I had to return it when I was only a third of the way through and request it again so I could finish it. Mostly, it’s because it’s bogged down with a ton of architectural details which were hard for me to get through. It’s a coffee table book, so there are BEAUTIFUL photographs, but it takes ages and ages to slog through because it’s impossible to sit down and get comfortable with it. Still It took me FOREVER to get through this. Partially, it’s because the book was requested by someone else and I had to return it when I was only a third of the way through and request it again so I could finish it. Mostly, it’s because it’s bogged down with a ton of architectural details which were hard for me to get through. It’s a coffee table book, so there are BEAUTIFUL photographs, but it takes ages and ages to slog through because it’s impossible to sit down and get comfortable with it. Still, it was fun to see the evolution of libraries - the earliest chapters are particularly interesting, given how different the earliest libraries are to our contemporary perceptions of libraries.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    My wife gave me this as a gift on our anniversary, knowing I had some small background in architecture and an all too visible love of books. This book is a tremendous achievement. All of the photography was on-site and original by Pryce. The style is conversational, rarely venturing into the too dry or technical, to make these spaces seem vital. It closes on a hopeful note of what the library as a space / event housing could potentially be in the future. We all know times are changing, but we can My wife gave me this as a gift on our anniversary, knowing I had some small background in architecture and an all too visible love of books. This book is a tremendous achievement. All of the photography was on-site and original by Pryce. The style is conversational, rarely venturing into the too dry or technical, to make these spaces seem vital. It closes on a hopeful note of what the library as a space / event housing could potentially be in the future. We all know times are changing, but we can do a lot with that change. If you read (and I'm guessing you do) then this book belongs in your home.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    It's not completely correct to say I read this. I looked at the photographs and drooled. That counts as 'reading,' right? I discovered how I'd like to be remembered for posterity. Like Shiba Ryotaro (p. 286-87) I want my house to be made into a gorgeous public museum to display the books collected in my lifetime. I just had a quick count. I estimate I own 2,137 physical books. I have to work on the other 17,863. Onward! It's not completely correct to say I read this. I looked at the photographs and drooled. That counts as 'reading,' right? I discovered how I'd like to be remembered for posterity. Like Shiba Ryotaro (p. 286-87) I want my house to be made into a gorgeous public museum to display the books collected in my lifetime. I just had a quick count. I estimate I own 2,137 physical books. I have to work on the other 17,863. Onward!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beth Roberts

    Great fun to read: a general history of library buildings, focusing on how any given building deals with the dangers (fire, theft, flood) and the desires (light, comfort, ease of finding and reshelving). And the photographs are magnificent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Huang

    For people who love to read, I guess a majority love a beautiful library and the stories of libraries. In this book you read a lot about these stories told in an organized, chronological manner. In late medieval times, books are hard to come by. They are thus chained onto the reading lecterns. In the 16th century, libraries start to have rows and rows of shelves. By the 17th century, the architectural beauty and elaborateness of decoration of libraries shot up significantly. By 18th century, col For people who love to read, I guess a majority love a beautiful library and the stories of libraries. In this book you read a lot about these stories told in an organized, chronological manner. In late medieval times, books are hard to come by. They are thus chained onto the reading lecterns. In the 16th century, libraries start to have rows and rows of shelves. By the 17th century, the architectural beauty and elaborateness of decoration of libraries shot up significantly. By 18th century, collections have grown to such sizes that libraries start to have multiple levels and ladders are needed to access higher shelves. By the 19th century, more and more public and national libraries start to appear. Carnegie, for example, was passionate in philanthropy and libraries. He gave away $300+M (worth about $400 billion in today’s money) to charity, including grants for 2800 public libraries. In more modern times, there are libraries which look more like an Amazon warehouse, and retrieval is done with special forklifts. As fascinating as the stories are, the real draw of the book is those absolutely gorgeous photos of all kinds of libraries. During my travels, I usually make a point of visiting beautiful libraries. But it’s quite hard. Melk Abbey, for instance, forbids photography (I did it anyway, in stealth. Shhhh.) Slovenia national library is not open to outside visitors (at least on the day I visited). Even for those that you can take a photo (like Austria’s national library, and Strahov Abbey), you are hindered by other visitors and the position you can be. The photographer for this book gets to choose the angle, the lighting, and in completely empty settings. Short of getting an assignment like that, the next best thing is to buy this book and drool over the eye candies.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maria Novella

    "Libraries are places of imagination, and imagination is a form of play - play of the mind. Libraries can take us back to our childhood, or transport us to imaginary worlds. Humankind has created an extraordinary variety of spaces in which to read, to think, to dream and to celebrate knowledge. As long as humankind continues to value these activities, it will continue to build places to house them." I feel these last lines of "The Library: A World History", by James W.P. Campbell beautifully expr "Libraries are places of imagination, and imagination is a form of play - play of the mind. Libraries can take us back to our childhood, or transport us to imaginary worlds. Humankind has created an extraordinary variety of spaces in which to read, to think, to dream and to celebrate knowledge. As long as humankind continues to value these activities, it will continue to build places to house them." I feel these last lines of "The Library: A World History", by James W.P. Campbell beautifully express what the whole book is about: showing what the passion of the humankind for culture could create. And not just culture: a book is a world. A world made of dreams and hope. To build a library is to build a shelter for this world, for those dreams. There were so many libraries I didn't know about, while it was beautiful to see photos of a library I could see with my own eyes. The photographs by Will Pryce perfectly capture all the beauty and the peculiar aspects of the libraries through the years and the countries. I definitely recommend reading this book, not only you will learn a lot about how libraries were built, the concept behind, but this book is also a treat for your eyes.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

    Both a fascinating read and a beautifully presented volume with stunning images of some of the most grandiose and fascinating libraries throughout the world, this work is not just a history of the library as a building in which to house collections of books and other forms of stored information, but also serves to illustrate the importance placed on the acquisition, storage and access to information throughout history. If, like myself, you find the sight of shelves and cases filled to capacity wi Both a fascinating read and a beautifully presented volume with stunning images of some of the most grandiose and fascinating libraries throughout the world, this work is not just a history of the library as a building in which to house collections of books and other forms of stored information, but also serves to illustrate the importance placed on the acquisition, storage and access to information throughout history. If, like myself, you find the sight of shelves and cases filled to capacity with all manner of books to be both supremely relaxing and irresistibly enticing, you will no doubt find much to enjoy in this superb book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maia

    A gorgeously illustrated survey, although the title should perhaps be "The Library: A history in Europe, North America and Asia". I don't think a single library from South America or the entire continent of Africa was shown. However, the libraries that are explored are very beautiful and their stories are well explained. A gorgeously illustrated survey, although the title should perhaps be "The Library: A history in Europe, North America and Asia". I don't think a single library from South America or the entire continent of Africa was shown. However, the libraries that are explored are very beautiful and their stories are well explained.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    Would give it a billion stars if possible.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greg Giles

    It's two books in one: a gorgeous book of stunning photos, and a pedestrian history of library history. Worth a gander. It's two books in one: a gorgeous book of stunning photos, and a pedestrian history of library history. Worth a gander.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jake Cooper

    Pretty pics and academic history of library architecture, which reflects the histories of the book (interesting) and of architecture (meh). Best theme: how library structure reflects book prices, from pre-Gutenberg's wildly expensive tomes (100-500 in a library, chained to lecterns, kept in locked cabinets, etc) to modern storage issues (abandoned concept of One Grand Room, stacks, offsite storage, etc). Pretty pics and academic history of library architecture, which reflects the histories of the book (interesting) and of architecture (meh). Best theme: how library structure reflects book prices, from pre-Gutenberg's wildly expensive tomes (100-500 in a library, chained to lecterns, kept in locked cabinets, etc) to modern storage issues (abandoned concept of One Grand Room, stacks, offsite storage, etc).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Clarke

    The gorgeous photographs in this book are a bibliophile’s dream. The text is quite interesting too, stressing how developing book technologies forced changes in how libraries were designed and constructed (and staffed). It all boils down to good shelving strategies. Amongst modern libraries Campbell is (for me, surprisingly) a big fan of the new National Library of France - this draws exceptional superlatives. The British Library is name-checked but not illustrated. The architectural importance The gorgeous photographs in this book are a bibliophile’s dream. The text is quite interesting too, stressing how developing book technologies forced changes in how libraries were designed and constructed (and staffed). It all boils down to good shelving strategies. Amongst modern libraries Campbell is (for me, surprisingly) a big fan of the new National Library of France - this draws exceptional superlatives. The British Library is name-checked but not illustrated. The architectural importance of Panini’s British Museum reading room is acknowledged but only illustrated by a Victorian print. Very excitingly, he scrupulously documents interesting and important libraries across the world, particularly in the Far East.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Beautiful book of libraries! It was interesting to learn about the ancient libraries since looking at the ruins you have no idea what you're looking at. As a librarian I felt like it lacked a librarian's perspective on use and users. It makes me want to read more books about architecture. I also wish there were more photos of the libraries referenced. Also there could have been more examples of libraries in non European countries even if they're not as lavish. South America, Africa, the Middle E Beautiful book of libraries! It was interesting to learn about the ancient libraries since looking at the ruins you have no idea what you're looking at. As a librarian I felt like it lacked a librarian's perspective on use and users. It makes me want to read more books about architecture. I also wish there were more photos of the libraries referenced. Also there could have been more examples of libraries in non European countries even if they're not as lavish. South America, Africa, the Middle East, Pacific nations were not well represented.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark McTague

    Yes, this is a coffee table book, and probably appeals mostly to bibliophiles (and perhaps architecture students). As such, bibliophiles can simply flip through the pages and appreciate the lovely photos. But if the size and weight aren't off-putting (it's perhaps best read at a desk or, if one has one, medieval angled lectern), it has a wealth of information on the development of the form and function of libraries through the ages, showing how the need to protect and preserve books, the desire Yes, this is a coffee table book, and probably appeals mostly to bibliophiles (and perhaps architecture students). As such, bibliophiles can simply flip through the pages and appreciate the lovely photos. But if the size and weight aren't off-putting (it's perhaps best read at a desk or, if one has one, medieval angled lectern), it has a wealth of information on the development of the form and function of libraries through the ages, showing how the need to protect and preserve books, the desire to present them both for use and for appreciation as cultural objects, and the changes brought by varying tastes and the development of technology changed the appearance of libraries. Particularly gratifying, especially in a book of this size and scope (ancient Mesopotamia to the new millenium), is how the photos match the subject discussed on that page. Such care for the reader is the mark of a thoughtful editor, and it makes the reading more enjoyable.

  24. 5 out of 5

    ZaBeth Marsh

    Okay, I admit it. I didn't read every word of this book but I got it mostly for the pictures. I love books and therefore I'm equally in love with the places that house books. From the ancient stone libraries to the modern steel stacks, libraries help keep the love of books alive and so I frequent my library as much as possible. What I fear most is the book warehouse such as the Bodleian Storage in Swindon, UK that houses the overflow of the Oxford Library. Books stored away where no one can see Okay, I admit it. I didn't read every word of this book but I got it mostly for the pictures. I love books and therefore I'm equally in love with the places that house books. From the ancient stone libraries to the modern steel stacks, libraries help keep the love of books alive and so I frequent my library as much as possible. What I fear most is the book warehouse such as the Bodleian Storage in Swindon, UK that houses the overflow of the Oxford Library. Books stored away where no one can see it is a sad life for a book. A book should be available where people can pull it down off the shelf by inspiration, flip through the pages, and learn just a tidbit before putting it back on the shelf for the next person to discover.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Lots of beautiful photographs but the actual text is slightly problematic. Syntax is occasionally jarring and terms are often not defined (prepare to Google for unfamiliar things); once the author said something would be explained "below" and it never was - I have assume he meant in one of the photograph captions. I would also have loved line drawings or plans of each library - it was hard to situate each library within its surroundings because I didn't have knowledge of the site. I also thought Lots of beautiful photographs but the actual text is slightly problematic. Syntax is occasionally jarring and terms are often not defined (prepare to Google for unfamiliar things); once the author said something would be explained "below" and it never was - I have assume he meant in one of the photograph captions. I would also have loved line drawings or plans of each library - it was hard to situate each library within its surroundings because I didn't have knowledge of the site. I also thought it was strange that no photographs of the Round Reading room of the British Library nor any photographs or discussion of the current Library near St Pancras (aside from the Yorkshire storage facility) were included. The Harvard Library system was only briefly mentioned.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    A very large book, filled with beautiful photos of libraries through the ages. Would make a great gift for a library lover or bibliophile (*hint hint*).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe Vigil

    A must for library and history freaks. This oversize book has awesome stories from libraries from all over the world. It also has some amazing full color photographs. Get it at your local library : )

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cami

    I want to live in this book! It is absolutely beautiful. Often books like this just rely on pretty pictures but this one actually has informative and interesting text.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike Parkes

    Our 500-volume family library seems a little inadequate after looking through this, but one thing for certain is that I will need to make space for this glorious volume in the collection. This is a gorgeous high-quality coffee-table book, with exquisite photography of so many beautiful collections, but also includes a stimulating, excellent accompanying text. The text focuses mostly on the architecture of libraries, but has fascinating insights throughout as to how knowledge is created, stored, Our 500-volume family library seems a little inadequate after looking through this, but one thing for certain is that I will need to make space for this glorious volume in the collection. This is a gorgeous high-quality coffee-table book, with exquisite photography of so many beautiful collections, but also includes a stimulating, excellent accompanying text. The text focuses mostly on the architecture of libraries, but has fascinating insights throughout as to how knowledge is created, stored, and used; it addresses the changing media of written material through the ages, the impact of the printing press, the purposes of libraries, and so much more.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This book had mirrored and sparked my journey through library architecture and content, from the Bodleian Library, Oxford UK and its archives, much of which is now digitized and online for viewing to the clay tablet library of Ashurbanipal at the British Museum.

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