The Bookworm Adventures
Author: Sailea Nerid
Editor's Note: To save space, the photographs which originally accompanied this article have not been added. The images are all preserved in the newsletter version.
In this article we are planning to take you on a very special trip around the world. We are about to visit some of the most famous and beautiful libraries in the world. Ready? Follow me!
Our first stop is the city of Prague and the Clementinum complex. Legend says the Jesuits had only one book when they started building the library in 1622. When they were done, the collection had swelled to 20,000 volumes. Labels on the bookshelves are original to the library’s opening, as are volumes with “whitened backs and red marks,” markers left by the Jesuits. Today the complex hosts the Chez National Library.
The next stop is Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. It’s home of George Peabody Library, which was once called ‘cathedral of books.' It’s one of America’s most beautiful college libraries, with a setting so gorgeous that weddings and special events are often held here. Bibliophiles come not only for the design but to browse 18th and 19th century volumes of archaeology as well as British and American history and literature.
Leaving aside the classical interior, we head to an island far away from Baltimore. In Tokyo, Japan, you should definitely visit Musashino Art University Museum and Library. Constructed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, it occupies a 26,900-square-foot space and is constructed from light-wood bookshelves walled in with glass. Even the stairs have built-in shelves, though they’re currently empty. It’s often compared to a ‘forest of books’ and the building stands as a powerful visual testament to the bound book’s enduring power.
Going to another island, we are about to enter one of the most famous libraries in the world - Trinity College Old Library in Dublin. The Long Room is probably the most striking element of this library; marble busts of famous writers like Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, line the walkway, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling arches overhead. Many visitors come first and foremost to see the Book of Kells, a lavishly decorated manuscript, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. Originally founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, the current building was built constructed in 1712.
Europe seems to be full of amazing places that sheltered thousands and thousands of books. Stuttgart City Library in Germany is a nine-story building that looks like a monolithic cube. At sunset, however, the façade’s glass bricks take on a glow, and after dark they are illuminated with blue lights. Inside, the dramatic all-white interior has a five-story reading room shaped as an upside-down pyramid, plus meeting rooms, a café, and a rooftop terrace. Patrons are welcome to settle in with a book or turn up after hours for the “Library for Insomniacs,” which keeps a small selection of material available all night long.
And now, which was the most famous library in the ancient world? Yes, it was Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. It still functions even though the original library was destroyed by fire or battle more than 1,600 years ago. Today’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina seeks to recapture the original’s spirit of public learning. Opened in 2002, the massive disc-shaped building has a huge reading room that tilts toward the sea while the façade is covered in letters and characters from more than a hundred different languages. The building also contains a planetarium, four museums, academic research centers, and a multimedia presentation of Egypt’s heritage.
Jumping to another continent we are about to explore the Connemara Public Library in Chennai, India. Part of a cultural complex that includes a theater, a museum, and an art gallery, Connemara Public Library was established in 1896. It continues to receive copies of all books, periodicals, and newspapers published in India. Designed by H. Irvin, the consulting architect to the government of the time, the majestic building has a circular entrance that opens into a stately reading room with an elaborately decorated ceiling, teak balconies, and stained-glass windows.
Going south, one of the most fascinating libraries we could find is Mortlock Wing State Library in Adelaide, Australia. When this two-story library opened in 1884, officials were pleased by its majesty, yet felt it was missing something—a timepiece. The Dent and Sons clock still holds pride of place at the end of the reading room, high up on the wrought-iron and gold ornamented balcony. One feature that’s been replicated in more modern libraries is the glass roof; its dome lets in natural light and enhances the warmth of the beautiful room.
Finally, we are in the last inhabited continent and about to explore its libraries. Virgilio Barco Library in Colombia is located inside a park configuring within, according to its creator, a kind of “ceremonial center” where interactions take place between the city, the park and the building, enabling visitors to explore the place-as it has four different access points- finding along the way gardens, water canals and mirrors that reflect and duplicate. So basically you need to find your own way in.
This humble list does not reflect all the amazing libraries around the world but it gives you a glimpse to what a dream home for a bookworm should look like.