14 amazing libraries from around the world

Posted by Welcome Lishivha on 19 July 2017

Beyond being mere storehouses for books, these libraries are aesthetically pleasant on the eye and have amazing stories behind them. From epic tales of how they were established to how they’ve evolved over time, these libraries are a readers’ paradise and worth visiting if you ever find yourself in these cities.

Here’s a selection of some of the most amazing libraries around the world.

Also read: A book lovers guide to Cape Town


1. George Peabody Library in Baltimore

This library hosts over 30,000 book titles from the 19th century and is celebrated for its five tier ornamental cast-iron balconies. Its stunning design is considered to be one of the most beautiful interiors in the world (the beautiful interior is also used as a venue for wedding celebrations). It was opened in 1857 and was designed by Edmund G. Lind. The library also serves as an important research hub for the John Hopkins University.


2. The Admont Library in Austria

This is the largest monastery library in the world, with over 1400 manuscripts from the 8th century and books printed before 1500 and currently hosts over 200,000 books. The watercolour paintings on the ceiling encapsulating the Enlightenment era were painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte who lived between 1694 and 1783.

Photo from Flickr.


3. Boston Public Library

Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first free municipal library in the United States. It was initially located on Mason Street and within a year of operating, the location was said to be small. Boston Public Library later relocated to its current location on Copley square which has been home to the library since 1895 and was designed by Charles Follen McKim. The library hosts over 23 million materials ranging from books, DVDs, CDs, maps, manuscripts and others – it also houses federal and state documents.

Photo by Little Koshka.


4. Stuttgart City Library in Germany

This stunning library is located at Mailänder Platz and moved to its new location in 2011 before which was it was based in Wilhelmspalais from 1840. The 9-storey building features an all-white interior, designed such that the only colours that pop are the books and the people inside the building. Its building rises up like one big cube in the area, signifying it as an intellectual and cultural centre of the area.

Photo by Boris Thaser.


5. José Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City

This library is over 40,000 square feet and holds more than 470,000 books. The building is surrounded by luscious greenery and flowers and its interior is made up of webs of pathways and balconies resembling a plants’ root system. The building was designed by Alberto Kalach. By creating this building, Alberto had wanted to make a statement about creating green spaces in polluted and heavily industrialised areas.

Photo by LWYang.


6. Beinecke Rare Book Library in New Haven

Built in 1962, the Beinecke Rare Book Library is a literary archive of the Yale University Library and is used by students and academics of the university. The collection of books in this six storey building includes the university’s archive of manuscripts, rare books, historical tracts as well as modern-day material. The library prides itself in collecting rare books and manuscripts, which has earned it a reputation as one of the largest buildings in the world entirely dedicated to rare books and manuscripts. It hosts over 1 million volumes of books and well over a million of manuscripts alone.

Photo by Lauren Manning.


7. Seattle Central Library in Washington

The Seattle Central Library hosts about 1.5 million books and other items, it also features over 400 computers which are open to the public. This 11-storey building was designed by Peter J. Weber who had won an architectural competition with entries from over 30 firms. This stunning 55,000 square foot structure features massive pillars and is quite spacious inside.

Photo by Ming-yen Hsu.


8. Trinity College Dublin Library in Dublin

Trinity College Dublin Library serves the Trinity College established in 1592 and the University of Dublin. It’s most famous manuscript, the Book of Kells was presented to the library in 1661. It features an almost 200-foot ‘Long Room’ which was built between 1712 and 1732 and houses 200,000 of the oldest books in the library. The walkway in the Long Room features marble busts of famous philosophers and writers, created by Peter Schemakers. This library currently features over 6 million printed titles covering 400 years of academic and intellectual development.

Photo by Seagen.


9. Sainte-Geneviève Library in Paris

The Abbey of Saint Genevieve was a monastery in Paris that was suppressed during the French revolution, the Sainte-Geneviève Library inherited the collection of manuscripts from the monastery. It was designed by Henri Labrouste and built between 1838 and 1850. The building is greatly celebrated for its iron frame construction. The collection of books in the library covers all aspects of knowledge from science to literature and sits between 1.5 and 2 million. Its initially estimated space was questioned when the library first opened, the library was later renovated to make it more spacious to widen access to the public.


10. New York Public Library

Founded in 1895, the New York Public Library is one of the largest libraries in the world, hosting more than 55 million items. This library also presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs with classes in literacy, research, science and others. New York Public Library gets over 18 million visitors annually and judging by how stunning it is in the image below, it is not shocking why people are flocking to this readers paradise in numbers.


11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro

The Royal Portuguese Reading Room was established in 1887 and hosts a massive collection of Portuguese texts considered to be the largest and most valuable collection outside Portugal. The wall in the main reading room is completely covered in books from the floor almost to the ceiling and it’s decorated facade was carved in limestone all the way in Lisbon and brought by ship to Rio. Royal Portuguese Reading Room also hosts over 350000 volumes and titles.


12. Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt

Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a stunning library built with intentions of paying tribute to the legacy of the Library of Alexandria destroyed over a set of fires – one of which included a fire set by an army of Julius Ceaser in 48 BC. The Library of Alexandria was one of the most important libraries in the ancient world seeing thinkers like Plato and other famous writers and philosopher studied. As part of his reign, Alexandra had a group of thinkers and scholars who were studying and reporting to him about unchartered and undiscovered areas. The knowledge obtained from his campaigns and the era resulted in a significant contribution to geography and subsequently, other scientific fields dedicated to studying the earth. The current library was reopened in 2002 after a decision by the University of Alexandria made in 1974 with various countries like Spain donating collections to it.

Photo by John Kannenberg.


13. Saint Catherine’s Monastery Library in Egypt

The building of this library is said to have been ordered by Empress Consort who was the mother of Constantine the Greats. It’s located on Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses allegedly saw the burning bush and also received the Ten Commandments from God. The library is said to house manuscripts of Lives of Women Saints (from 779 AD). This library is considered to possess the oldest manuscripts dating back much further than most libraries.


14. Timbuktu library in Mali

The Timbuktu Library is considered to be one of the oldest libraries with manuscripts old manuscripts across a variety of fields such as art, medicine, philosophy, and science, some of which have still not been decoded as they were written in languages that remain unknown to our current civilisations. The library has been attacked several times by Islamic rebels. It was in 1937 that the Malian government decided on building the Ahmed Baba Centre, named a seventeenth-century scholar, the centre is a modern-day state of the art centre funded by South Africa and UNESCO to protect the texts. It’s unfortunate that this ancient and historic library is under-threat from Al-Qaeda-allied fighters as the manuscripts completely shatter the western stereotype that Africa does not possess written archives of history.

The Ahmed Baba Centre. Photo by Afrotourism.

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