- New book features stunning photographs of the world’s greatest libraries – built long before Kindles were invented
- The Library was written by British academic Dr James Campbell and is the first complete history of library buildings
- Dr Campbell, of Cambridge University, visited more than 80 libraries in 20 countries for the book
- Author’s favourite is the Admont Abbey in Austria, the oldest monastery library in the world
These stunning photographs illustrate the world’s greatest libraries built long before Kindles and iPads existed.
The incredible images document spectacular literary institutions from around the globe, dating from modern times right back to the 15th century.
British academic Dr James Campbell visited more than 80 libraries in 20 countries for his new book The Library, the first complete history of library buildings ever to be written.
The fabulous photos in the book, published by Thames and Hudson, show the wealth that people were prepared to lavish on libraries in a world where knowledge was power.
The volume is the result of five years of meticulous research by Dr Campbell, an expert in architecture at Cambridge University who spent three yearstravelling the world visiting each of the libraries alongside photographer Will Pryce.
The 320-page tome features libraries of all sizes from the world’s largest – the Library Of Congress in Washington – to the tiny late medieval library of Trinity Hall in Cambridge.
The oldest library featured in the £48 book which has survived with its fitting intact is the Malatestiana Biblioteca in Cesena in Italy, which dates back to 1452.
The big read: Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy is one of the many beautiful libraries to feature in the book, while the grand Philosophical Hall, at Strahov Abbey, in Prague, Czech Republic adorns the cover of Dr Cambell’s tome
Among the most opulent is the library in Melk in Austria which is decorated with gold leaf with every volume rebound to match its grand surroundings.
Dr Campbell, 45, says that his favourite is the library at Admont Abbey in Austria, the largest monastery library in the world.
‘Public libraries are currently under threat and everyone is discussing whether it could spell the end for libraries,’ he said.
‘Personally I love them and I wanted to show what an amazing history they have.
‘People’s perceptions of libraries are largely based on their own experiences of them, so most have no idea what a Roman or medieval library looks like.
‘I wanted to bring all these fascinating buildings together.
Works of art: Both the Altenburg Abbey Library, in Altenburg, Austria and the Abbey of St Gall Library, in St Gallen, Switzerland are examples of libraries not only being used to store books, but also as spectacular works of art and symbols of cultural importance in their own right
‘Libraries have been held in such high esteem for hundreds of years and have often had a huge amount of money spent on them for different reasons.
‘For some it was a case of personal pride while for others their library was a symbol of cultural importance.
‘Some libraries are a place to store books while some are sheer works of art.
‘Libraries are like living rooms in cities – warm places that anyone can go to to work and to learn – they are very egalitarian.
‘In contrast, the internet, the main threat to public libraries, is quite undemocratic because to access it you need a computer and a connection.
‘A lot of people think books are on their way out but interestingly there are more books being printed now than ever before.
‘Public libraries might be being closed in Europe but in other parts of the world like China they are being built.
‘In fact, one of the first things any country wanting to establish itself does is build a national library.
‘My hope is that this book will becomes the one people will reach for for information on the history of libraries for many years to come.’
The Library is published by Thames and Hudson and costs £48.