8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Breathtaking, 24 Dec 2013
What can be a more fitting tribute to libraries than a book? And books do not get much better than this one.
It is a must have for anyone interested in the history of books and learning. It is also a complete joy for anyone else.
The physical book is a delight to hold and leaf through. Will Pryce's images are rich, sensitive, and atmospheric. They are given a generous amount of space, and the result is a luxurious volume that transports the reader effortlessly into a spellbinding collection of libraries most of us will never see.
Although the images are mesmerizing, this is not a picture book. It is an illustrated history of the world's learning. As we are guided through the development of the library, we are introduced to who was making and storing books, and where and how they chose to do it. The list of libraries therefore reads like a history of world culture.
James Campbell's explanatory text is clear and revealing. It is stuffed full of fascinating scholarship, but always joyfully light and easily accessible. As he takes us effortlessly through the evolution of the library, he gleefully reveals wonderful nuggets of information -- like the use of paper for furniture and armour, and debates on whether it is good for monks to study books at all.
The variety of libraries covered is astounding, and there is something here for every taste, from ancient Mesopotamia to the grandiose modern facilities designed to cope with the vast numbers of volumes now requiring storage. The author's unprecedented access to so many of the world's most beautiful libraries makes this the most definitive history of the subject available.
Overall, this is a tribute to libraries and their readers. It is inspiring, uplifting, beautiful, and rich with fascinating detail. As James Campbell acutely observes: libraries celebrate the act of reading and the importance of learning.
This book, too, does just that.