29 Jun 2014

World's Most Beautiful Libraries: Part 1

When it comes to reading, there are two important things: the book itself and the place where you read it. Anthony Throllope famously said that nothing can be more luxurious than merely a sofa and a cup of coffee to accompany a good book. But for some, with a more extravagant taste, this is not enough.

So oh how happy are those living in Europe since there are libraries of the most beautiful interior - and the most beautiful books - in the world.

In this post series, I will be making up a list of the most stunning libraries that are definitely worth checking out if you are a book worm with a luxurious taste.

1. Wiblingen Abbey Library in Ulm, Germany
Situated in a former Benedict Abbey (in the North wing of it), the library was completed in 1744. Its facade was modelled on the Austrian National Library, or Imperial Court Library, as it was called before, in order to demostrate the attachment to the imperial house.
The library is constructed in the airy and whimsical Rococo syle, and is considered to be on of its finest examples. The library has exquisite ornamental features, long galleries supported by numerous columns, countless statues, and most gorgeous ceiling fresco that makes library be perceived as a place preserving "treasures of wisdom and science", as originally intended by the architect.

2. Klementinum in Prague, Czech Republic
Klementinum is the largest and most historic building complex in Prague's Old Town. It includes Mirror Chapel, famous Library Hall, Astronomical Tower, and two churches - St. Salvator and St. Clement. The Library Hall, designed in stunning baroque, is a home to 20 000 books that date as far as the 16th century. Built in 1722, it hasn't changed its foundation since and maintained all its frescos, paintings on the cupola, and famous large globes. Interestingly, the Library Hall of Klementinum was mentioned in The Secret Miracle, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. There, the librarians of Klementinum were looking for God in the books of the library. (It will be my next read.)

3. Marfa Palace Library in Marfa, Portugal
Marfa National Palace, 28 km from Lisbon, is a palace-monastery designed in Baroque and Neoclassicism. It is mostly famous for its major library that is 88 metres and is the longest Rococo monastic library in the world. It includes 35 000 rare, leather-bound books, and they say that bats live in this library and at night eat insects that would feast on the book pages.

4. Bodleian Library in Oxford, United Kingdom
The main research library of Oxford University is also known as 'Bodley' or simply 'the Bod'. It was the first time for the English to shelve books along the walls, instead of putting them in bays or lecterns protruding from the walls. This is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and contains over 11 million books in print. One of the most famous books Bodleian Library has are  Shakespeare's First folio (1623), Gutenberg Bible (1455), and Bay Psalm Book (1640). The latter two are one of the only surviving copies in the world - 21 and 11 accordingly.
Also, Borleian Library serves as a location for many films and TV series. I was quite excited to find out that the Hogwarts library from the Harry Potter series was actually filmed there.

5. The Escorial Library in San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Spain
Located at 49 km from Madrid, the library is a part of a building complex that includes a monastery, a royal palace, a school, a basilica, a museum, two pantheons, an art gallery, and lovely gardens. The library, completed in 1585, established the template of using books to decorate the walls, which has been used ever since. Almost 45 000 printed works from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as around 5 000 manuscripts, have found home in the Escorial Library, also famous for its ceiling frescos that depict all seven liberal arts: Rhetoric, Dialectic, Music, Grammar, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy.

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