Judging By Covers: Great Libraries

"You can never be too thin, too rich, or have too many books." - Carter Burden, VOGUE

There is something magical about books. What other common household object has defined national identities, inspired self-sacrifice, been lauded as the font of wisdom, or required vigilant guard over the centuries. The cheap paperback you're currently using as a coaster is a miracle. The technology that produced it, and your ability to read it are, too, wondrous things. How much more wonderful then, to have a room devoted entirely to books.

True confessions: I am mad about books. I have 600 catalogued so far, and enough remaining on my shelves to suspect the final tally is quite a bit higher. And I dream of my own personal book heaven with plenteous shelves, comfy seating, and maybe a spiral stair (or two). But, even if the closest you come to a library is a stack of your college textbooks and a CD collection, the design below will leave you inspired!

The Bodleian library at Oxford is probably the best in the world (although the Library of Congress is a close competitor, particularly for modern works). The Oxford library was founded in the 1300s, and later pioneered placing books upright, rather than on their sides, to save space. Books are so treasured at the Bodleian that any users admitted to the library must take a special oath: “I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; nor to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.” Because of the no fire policy, the library remained unheated for centuries (and, I can attest from my own experiences, still FEELS unheated today). Here is the exterior of the Radcliffe Camera, and an interior view of the reading room.

One of the most fabulous movie libraries has to be this one, from My Fair Lady. Sporting spiral stairs and leather chairs drawn up to the fire (and ample room for the sing'n and the dance'n) this is a pretty fabulous library. Here is Rex Harrison on parade.

This imaginary library, created by Disney animators for the movie Beauty and the Beast, is equally awe-inspiring.

Another special library: The White House. This is not the library you're used to seeing in all the holiday images, nor where FDR recorded those famous fireside chats. This is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Library, where White House staff may take out books or place orders for volumes in the Library of Congress. A few steps away from the West Wing, it retains all the old-Washington aura.

The Irish kept up with the British: here's Trinity College, University of Dublin. Aside from housing Ireland's oldest harp and the famous Book of Kells, the Long Room (shown below) is full to the brim with antique volumes and medieval manuscripts. Founded in the 1600s, Trinity library also inspires more modern structures - including ones yet to exist. In 2002, Trinity considered legal action over the Jedi library in Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones. See the resemblance?

Finally, Europe by no means has the market on gorgeous libraries cornered. There's the Library of Congress, the New York library, and one of my favorites, the library at Biltmore House in Ashville, SC. George Vanderbilt's dream library contains over 10,000 books and a ceiling imported whole piece from a villa in Italy. Note the spiral stair and massive stone fireplace.

Feeling inspired yet? There's another post coming on how to do a library in YOUR home - and featuring some more attainable designs (hint: no gargoyles or two-story fireplaces). Stay tuned!

Images: Antique books: willows95988.typepad.com. Oxford library: auntiemwrites weblog, Oxford-tutors.org. My Fair Lady: iowagrasslands.blogspot.com. Beauty and the Beast library: littlemiao.vox.com. EEOB Library and floor: National Archives. Trinity College: from the book Libraries, by photographer Candida Höfer. Jedi Library: irish-architecture.com.  Biltmore Library: bookthink.com.  


Shop Hop, Great Steals, and some posts may include paid links. View our disclosure policy here.


Related Posts with Thumbnails