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The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World Hardcover – October 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810946343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810946347
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 11.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Guillaume de Laubier is one of France's foremost photographers of interior design. He has undertaken projects all over the world for magazines such as Elle Décoration, Architectural Digest, and Madame Figaro. Jacques Bosser, journalist and translator, has written for Architectural Digest and Connaissance des Arts as well as contributing to Le Dictionnaire international des arts appliqués et du design and Le Dictionnaire international du bijou. James H. Billington has been the Librarian of Congress for more than 15 years.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Aside from the photographs (most of which are full page), the book also details each library's history.
Z Hayes
Invest the requisite exertion and time to read and contemplate the knowledge of great books, and you will find the lavishness of even these libraries lacking.
Stephen J. Chow
Regardless of my snarky attitude, the results of what can be done with unlimited architecture, fine artisans and time is very well represented here.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 122 people found the following review helpful By B. P. Jones on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully photographed book might appear, at first glance, as another "coffee-table book": that is, a book someone gives you as a gift, which thereafter sits on your coffee table unread. That hasn't been my experience. Since receiving it as a Christmas present from my wife, I find myself picking it up every few weeks, reading about how famous book collections were formed, and gazing at the stunning architecture of libraries built as temples to literature (rather than on the how-many-shelves-can-we-cram-into-this-square-footage principle).
There are university libraries (e.g., Oxford, Trinity College Dublin), royal libraries (Vienna, Prague), religious libraries (The Vatican, and several monasteries), and more democratic ones (The New York Public Library). Most of the libraries are European, except for three: New York, The Library of Congress (which is featured on the cover), and the Boston Athenaeum.
There could be more in the text about the contents of these libraries; the emphasis is more on the sheer physical beauty of these places. And beautiful they are, some of them decorated by leading artists.
Some of these libraries are easy to visit; some are accessible only to scholars with appropriate references. Some, like the library of the French Senate (a serene retreat overlooking the Jardin du Luxembourg), are available to a select few. This delightful volume lets us in, for a while. Enjoy.
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Speaking as a professional librarian for more than three decades -- someone who upon visiting a city for the first time usually seeks out the main library for a look around -- there are libraries and then there are libraries. Even those in major U.S. cities tend to be utilitarian first (sometimes utilitarian only). Those dating from the 1950s and `60s are generally pretty ugly, as well. For richness and beauty, you have to go overseas to find libraries constructed in an earlier time, when architecture and ornamentation was an end in itself. Except for the small collections kept by monasteries, the library is pretty much an invention of the Renaissance and the Age of Reason. The National Library of Austria, in Vienna, is gorgeously Baroque, with allegorical paintings on the ceilings and narrow staircases concealed behind hidden doors in the stacks. The ever-suspicious Vatican Library still locks its bookcases, filled with bibliographical relics of incalculable value. The Senate Library in Paris is a blend of Neoclassical and Italianate, but it's very much a working library and the old card catalogue has been replaced by computers. I was privileged many years ago to visit the breathtaking library at the Abbey of Saint Gall, home of probably the world's most important collection of surviving incunabula. The curving bookshelves of inlaid wood, the hundreds of carved portraits, arms, and both religious and secular symbols are just incredible. And there's the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the first-ever university collection. And there are more than a dozen others in this beautifully produced volume, of which only three in the United States were deemed worthy of inclusion: the Library of Congress, the New York Public, and the Boston Athenaeum.Read more ›
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By bonsai724 on February 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book in a store I was absolutely thrilled, and I decided that I must have it...yet, I paid about $55 for it. For me, it was a worthy price to pay, but when I found this book on Amazon for so much less, I felt that I had to urge others to take this great offer. It is fair enough to say that everyone would like to have high quality things, yet at times we are unable to do so for one or more reasons. Yet this book is so affordable and it maintains a very high quality. It has thick pages and the pictures inside are dark and rich. Overall, this book has brought me much joy, and I hope it will do the same for you.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Swimmer cyn on March 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World"
is kept on the fireplace mantlepiece
in our library for people to come and
view. I liked the book so much I bought
my father it for Valentine's Day. He has
visited many libraries and gone on library
tours in Europe, so the pictures brought
back many memories for him and reminded him
of how our ancestors treasured libraries
and kept the books in good condition.

Anybody who is a library connoisseur will
enjoy this book. As written in the introduction,
"One must spend hours upon hours, and days upon
days in the cocoon of a great library in order
to understand and love the cozy isolation that it
can provide. Some people will never break away
from its spell and remain eternal readers, having
lost the desire to discover the real world. Others
will know how to find lin libraries both knowledge
and its instruments."

Cynthia Nakai
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shemogue on April 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The great libraries of history have endured such vicissitudes of fortune through the centuries - destruction by revolution, war and fire, dispersal through pilfering, confiscation, monastic decline, loss of patronage - & perhaps the unkindest cut of all, at one point the sale of its books by Oxford University to pay the librarian's wages. It is truly astonishing that so much has survived. This book is a celebration of 23 of these unique and beautiful cathedrals of knowledge in America and Europe.

At a time when most of his subjects were illiterate, the Austrian Habsburg Charles VI created the Hofbibliothek in Vienna. He decreed that its doors be open to (almost) everyone; they could enter free of charge and as often as they wished, but there were a few exceptions: the library was off limits to "ignoramuses, servants, idlers, talkers and gawkers." Alas, the Hofbibliothek is no longer free and, like many libraries included in this book, it is now accessible only to a favoured few.

Indeed, the closest most of us will ever get to the Hofbibliothek or the 22 other great libraries enshrined in its pages is through this book, and for this reason alone, it belongs in the book-lover's collection. There is a brief history of each library, but the real attraction is the spectacular colour photography, including several "gatefold" pages which open to provide wonderful panoramic views nearly 3 feet wide.

Next to the awe-inspiring magnificence of Hofbibliothek, the white and gold Baroque splendour of the Benedictine Abbey Library of Admont in Austria rivals the gold and marble Rococco opulence of the Monastic Library of Wiblingen near Ulm Germany, although after secularisation the latter lost most of its vast book collection.
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