Monday, July 7, 2014

Magical Libraries

by Joan

I love libraries. Last week one of my favorites, The Bodleian Library in Oxford, was offering tours of the old library and Radcliffe Camera. Such a magical place - if like me you adore rare books and bindings, onion-skin paper and dust. 
Bodleian Library at Oxford University, photo credit unknown
Since I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been to my share of neighborhood libraries, but also traipsed the stacks of the Fondren Library at SMU and trolled the basement stacks at the Fort Worth main branch

In 2005, my family and I ogled at the steps of this beauty, the Celsus Library at Ephesus. It was built between 117 and 120 AD but not excavated until 1904. A library with no books, yes, but still a place to absorb culture and history.

Celsus Library, Ephesus, Photo by Rick Mora 

I’ve never really made a bucket list, but I imagine it would include a visit to some of the amazing libraries I’ve seen in images floating over Twitter feeds or in magazines. 
Architectural Digest ran an article on the world’s best libraries. Of course, “best” is objective, as some of these, while architecturally dynamic and different, are too modern for my taste. Telegraph ran another article on the most spectacular libraries in the world.

And so here are a few I'll add to the must-see list. I wish I could post images of these lovely places, but because of copyright issues, I added links. If you're so inclined, click through and enjoy!

Here are just a few - if you've been to any, I'd love to hear about it. 

The library at the St. Florian Monastery in Austria with its Baroque main hall and other-worldly ceiling fresco. 

Trinity College Dublin - see fantastic images here.

The library at Pergamum in its day was said to have 200,000 volumes. Two other reasons to visit: Parchment was developed there, and there's a statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom. 

Theological Hall at Strahov Abbey - image here.

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris, France – images here.

Another in Oxford: All Souls Library designed by Hawksmoor, the brilliant 18th century English architect. Images here.

Despite living in Maryland for 45 years, I never visited the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Images here.

Your city might not have the most architecturally spectacular library, but I’m guessing you can find one with something noteworthy about it. Do you have a favorite library?  


  1. I knew you liked to visit churches and cemeteries but didn't know libraries (other than Bodleian Library) were on your list of favorite places to see. The library at my college, Bracken Library at BSU, is pretty cool. It's built to resemble a stack of books from the outside. Inside--I pretty much slept there between classes.

  2. Here's something a lot of people don't know: the main branch of the Dallas Public Library (the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library) has a copy of The Declaration of Independence--one of the ones printed July 4, 1776. Plus a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, printed in 1623, and displayed in a gorgeous Elizabethan revival room. These are both very rare documents, and well worth the trip downtown (or across the state, or state lines) to ogle!

  3. Pamela - that does sound cool. I could't picture it, so thanks for the link! It does indeed look like books on a shelf.

    Elizabeth - I surely never knew that. Must make a point to go. Maybe a WWW road trip?


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