The Library: A World History

September 11, 2019 - Comment

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

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.

Comments

Anonymous says:

A gorgeous volume! Sophisticates used to say they bought Playboy to read the articles and paid no attention to the pictures. I bought this book for the opposite reason: to look at the gorgeous pictures of libraries through the years — and they are gorgeous!However, I deigned to read a few words of the text, and discovered that it was fascinating and beautifully written, so I read it in detail. While it speaks about libraries, it also treats the various external factors that affected libraries,…

Anonymous says:

I was slightly disappointed the focus was so heavy on the buildings–but when … I essentially read this in one sitting (about 14 hours). Initially when I flipped through it, I was slightly disappointed the focus was so heavy on the buildings–but when I got to reading it, I learned quite about about the relationship of the buildings and some of the challenges of preserving books. There’s a lot more here than just architecture and there’s a lot of great architecture. I learned a lot–this book filled numerous holes of my knowledge and uncovered many new areas to explore…

Anonymous says:

Boundless store of knowledge 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…

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