Libraries of the World

I went to a lecture organised by the Association of Pall Mall Libraries on the subject of great libraries of the world.   It was by James Campbell, a Cambridge architect turned architectural historian, who published a book, The Library: a world history, last year.   It’s a wonderful subject, beginning with the early chained libraries like Trinity Hall, and going on to the more grandly architectural libraries, including Wren’s great library for Trinity, the Radcliffe Camera and the Codrington.   Some I knew, like Asplund’s Stockholm City Library.   Many I didn’t, including Jože Plečnik’s National Library of Slovenia.   What I hadn’t anticipated was the extraordinarily strong showing of American libraries, including the George Peabody Library in Baltimore, the reading room of the New York public library, a library designed by Frank Furness for the University of Pennsylvania (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library) and, most extraordinary of all, the library of Phillips Academy in Exeter, with individual carrels for every pupil, designed by Louis Kahn.

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3 thoughts on “Libraries of the World

  1. Jane Wainwright says:

    I look forward to seeing the book – an attractive subject near to my heart. This week I am staying at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Wales. Is it listed in the book?

  2. Amanda Kinsman says:

    Americans were tremendously keen on libraries. I believe Andrew Carnegie gave libraries to several towns around Skibo Castle.

  3. The new libary in Birmingham is spectacular, and the recent reworking of Manchester library is excellent, too. Both full of younger people, studying, flirting and generally performing in public. So the tradition of great public libraries is alive and well, even in post-crash England, although whether we’ll ever be able to afford any more remakns to be seen

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