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The Library: A World History Hardcover


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The Library: A World History + The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World + Libraries
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (October 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022609281X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226092812
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 9.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"In a new book, The Library: A World History, author James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce survey the world's libraries, from the expansive new National Library of China to the Tripitaka Koreana, which was built in 1251 in South Korea and is one of the oldest intact libraries in the world. The book is full of interesting asides."
(Boston Globe)

“Campbell’s new history of library architecture, with spectacular photographs by Pryce, takes us on a global tour . . . from the clay tablet storehouses of ancient Mesopotamia and the beautiful repositories of Buddhist sutra blocks and paper prints in Korea and Japan, to the grandiose designs and multimedia extravaganzas of the 21st century. . . .The Library: A World History puts such creations into long perspective, showing how book technology, readers’ needs and architectural solutions have co-evolved (or, occasionally, been at loggerheads).”
(Financial Times)

“The photographs by Will Pryce are technically flawless, and they give point and purpose to a text which is not only informative but persuasive. The message is clear: of the making of libraries there can be no end."
(Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

James W. P. Campbell is a fellow and director of studies in architecture and history of art at Queens’ College, Cambridge. His most recent books include Brick: A World History (also with Will Pryce) and Building St Paul’s. Will Pryce is an award-winning photographer based in London who originally trained as an architect. His previous books include World Architecture: The Masterworks, Big Shed, and The Architecture of Wood: A World History.


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Customer Reviews

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It was highly recommended, and they weren't wrong, it is a great book to read and browse.
T. Burgess
The author's unprecedented access to so many of the world's most beautiful libraries makes this the most definitive history of the subject available.
Melisende
I bought this book for the opposite reason: to look at the gorgeous pictures of libraries through the years — and they are gorgeous!
George Sand

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By George Sand on December 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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, including their shifting patrons — the state, the church, the nobility, the plutocrats, the philanthropists, and the democrats. It also considers the effects of technology — the invention of books, paper, movable-type printing, gas lighting, electricity, and computing. Not to mention the evolution of architectural styles from classical to medieval, renaissance, baroque, rococo, neoclassical, Victorian, and modern. And, of course, the incorporation of the fine arts into library design.

Although enjoyably readable, the book also includes all the scholarly apparatus necessary for a true student of libraries. Any lover of books, libraries, or beautiful buildings will delight in this volume.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen F. Lamantia on November 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This may be the most beautiful book I have ever seen. If you love books and libraries, buy it and revel.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jean Sasson on November 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a divine book that obviously took enormous research and effort to put together. If you are a booklover, you will enjoy every page, every word.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Stanker on November 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book made my wife smile.
Beautiful pictures of beautiful places.
Book Porn at its best.

A fine gift for a loved one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Melisende on December 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What can be a more fitting tribute to libraries than a book? And books do not get much better than this one.

It is a must have for anyone interested in the history of books and learning. It is also a complete joy for anyone else.

The physical book is a delight to hold and leaf through. Will Pryce's images are rich, sensitive, and atmospheric. They are given a generous amount of space, and the result is a luxurious volume that transports the reader effortlessly into a spellbinding collection of libraries most of us will never see.

Although the images are mesmerizing, this is not a picture book. It is an illustrated history of the world's learning. As we are guided through the development of the library, we are introduced to who was making and storing books, and where and how they chose to do it. The list of libraries therefore reads like a history of world culture.

James Campbell's explanatory text is clear and revealing. It is stuffed full of fascinating scholarship, but always joyfully light and easily accessible. As he takes us effortlessly through the evolution of the library, he gleefully reveals wonderful nuggets of information -- like the use of paper for furniture and armour, and debates on whether it is good for monks to study books at all.

The variety of libraries covered is astounding, and there is something here for every taste, from ancient Mesopotamia to the grandiose modern facilities designed to cope with the vast numbers of volumes now requiring storage. The author's unprecedented access to so many of the world's most beautiful libraries makes this the most definitive history of the subject available.

Overall, this is a tribute to libraries and their readers. It is inspiring, uplifting, beautiful, and rich with fascinating detail. As James Campbell acutely observes: libraries celebrate the act of reading and the importance of learning.

This book, too, does just that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jpcooper on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As of this entry every review has been five stars. And should you decide to purchase this gorgeous book you will immediately understand why. This truly is a spectacular work. It covers the history of the library from ancient times to the very present. While the majority of the focus is on Continental Europe and England there are a number of Asian and American examples included as well.

The Medieval and Baroque libraries are stunningly beautiful and are certainly my favorites. And, fortunately, they are very well represented in this collection. The last seventy pages are dedicated to contemporary libraries, and although impressive, they just don't evoke the same measure of appeal.

The photography here is awe-inspiring. The views are crystal clear and perfectly chosen. A cloth binding would have been an improvement but it's a small consideration and outweighed by a very attractive dust jacket.

I have a copy of "The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World", and although quite nice, it is not anywhere near this book's equal. I can't imagine any lover of books, libraries or architecture not thoroughly enjoying this outstanding production.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Krusbe on January 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter loves to travel and has her library degree. I bought the book for her as one of her Christmas gifts and she loved it. It was hard to pull her away from it. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it arrived with just the basic shipping fee, especially since I wanted it for the holiday. It's a beautiful book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Burgess on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book as it was offered by another book club I belong to: The Folio Society. It was highly recommended, and they weren't wrong, it is a great book to read and browse. I also have a small library in my house and wanted to improve the look of the book cases (I am also a wood worker) and thought this would provide some wonderful inspiration, and that it did. But the vast number of libraries in the world, nearly all I would never, but would love to, see, is astonishing. A few of them I have seen talked about on various TV shows lately, the History channel for one if memory serves me, and it was also great to see in this book, very old library's that have been in existence for centuries, like one in Turkey since AD 155, although not sure it has books in it any more, or what they used for books back then. Then there is one in South Korea from 1251. Still in use! But one of the things I love the most is the huge libraries, seemingly stories high made of beautiful wood carvings, citing one example: The Library of the Abbey of St. Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1765. A beautiful book that will keep you enthralled for ages, especially if you are a book lover as well as someone who will get excited over the magnificence of the architecture of libraries, inside and out.
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