As usual, this Thames & Hudson book is a wonderful coffee table book. It is also an indispensable resource book for any bibliophile. The photographs by Will Pryce are works or art and had there been no text the book would still be a wonderful five-star book, but the text concerning the history of libraries is an informative addition and makes this the best of the three big books on libraries of the world. Chapter one takes us to the libraries of the ancient world. Sadly, the library of Pergamum, described as ‘second only to the Library of Alexandria’ has better coverage than the Library of Alexandria itself, but that is because there is virtually no historical material other than hearsay evidence of its existence.
The book goes on to cover the libraries of the middle ages with the author taking us to the cloisters, codices, and chests of those libraries. Chapter 3 concerns the libraries of the 16th century where books are first found chained to the selves. The rest of the book takes us in successive chapters to libraries in the 17th century until we see the beginnings of the modern libraries in chapters 6 and 7, that is, from the gaslit libraries to libraries of electricity, concrete and steel. The last chapter, chapter 8 takes us right into the future with amazing libraries such as the Liyuan Library in China, made of wood, and the Grim Centre in Berlin. Two contrasting models of the imaginative creations that indicate to us that in spite of digital books, libraries are still relevant and important.
The other two big books on libraries are the 2005 edition, ‘Libraries’, a magnificent book of delightful photographs by Candida Hoffer and a charming essay by Umberto Eco. The third is ‘Libraries’ by an unnamed team of Roads Publishing. This is the thinnest volume and focuses on modern libraries. The Thames & Hudson volume is by far the most expensive, but if you are getting only one, that should be the one.
Whenever visiting any National Trust property or stately home, I always seek out the library and (if it is a good one) linger longest in there. Never having been hugely bookish myself, I nevertheless love the ambience of a Library. I think because it represents peace and civilisation and speaks of man's highest ideals and aspirations. I could cheerfully spend days in the libabries at Stourhead, Anthony and Cragside - and many others. How wonderful then to discover this book!
This book is comprehensive in the text, taking in the whole sweep of how containers of human knoweldge (from tablets to hard drives) have been stored and accessed by scholars or by casual readers. It looks at libraries as social improvement tools, as the centre of academic enquiry, as status symbols as public utilities and as religious statements, or just as attempts to storehouse all of human knowledge.
The text is eminently readable, and logically flows. However, you will derive equal pleasure from just looking at the superb photographs which lift the book into the realms of perfection - enhanced even more by the print quality (probably the best quality printed book I have ever seen).
As a package, for me as a lover of the whole idea of libraries, it takes my breath away. If you share that passion it should do the same for you.
My wife loves books and libraries ( having been to a couple featured here) and is the best read person I know. So when she describes this as " the best book in the world" I take her seriously. This is a large heavy book of high quality, the photo and print reproduction is lovely. So is the paper. She says it's not just a coffee table ornament ( it does tho look very nice) but actually is a great read for lovers of the subject. Which in case you havn't guessed is libraries of the world and the love of books. Her delight at owning it is matched by mine,for getting it right for once! and the fact it was £26 on Amazon. A bargain.
This book is not a coffee table book it is an interesting read as well. There are loads of lovely photos, and so much research has gone into it I can't believe that it does not cost double the price. Is a library a collection of books or the place the collection is? This book is about the places and wonderful places they are. If you love books then treat yourself to this one.
I am a librarian; my husband collects antiquarian books; we both like to visit old libraries when we are on our travels. This book has given us so much pleasure, both in the looking, touching and reading of it and also in the inspirational ideas it has given us for future visits.
I have one minor complaint and that it is case bound with a dust jacket which is itself beautiful. Eventually the dust jacket would get very tatty so it needs to be covered. Fortunately, I am a librarian and can do this, but it would be better if the book was case-wrapped with the illustration printed on the case.
This is a great book with interesting content and lush photography. Highly recommended for anyone who loves the written word. Its weight, both physically and in terms of its coverage, mean it will be something to dip into often, not just flicked through and abandoned.
I bought this beautiful book for my wife who was refused further education back in 1958 and so never had the chance to train as a librarian and it is an absolute joy to her. This a wonderful specialist creation for people who find fulfilment in fine book collections.
This book combines very beautiful photography with an interesting and highly informative architectural history of the library. There is a good amount of detail but it requires no prior knowledge: it's very much an educational book for the educated general reader. Highly recommended!
Magnificent photographs and I gather from my partner who is a librarian well written and enjoyable. It makes a recent publication from the B.M. on their recent Japanese art exhibition look particularly shabby.