Curious Expeditions has a post that makes me want to drop everything else and spend the rest of my life visiting as many of these wonderful places as possible: Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries:

For us here at Curious Expeditions, there has always been something about libraries. Row after row, shelf after shelf, there is nothing more magical than a beautiful old library. We had a chance to see just such a library on our recent visit to Prague. Tucked away on the top of a hill in Prague is the Strahov Monestary, the second oldest monastery in Prague. Inside, divided into two major halls, is a breathtaking library. The amazing Theological Hall contains 18,000 religious texts, and the grand Philosophical Hall has over 42,000 ancient philosophical texts. Both are stunningly gorgeous.

I’ve been to Strahov, and to a number of others on the long page of photographs (I held my breath until I got to the Main Reading Room of the NYPL); now I want to visit them all. As I said here, “To me, too, great libraries are the closest thing to cathedrals.” Thanks for the link, Maus!


  1. Great Link. And the library in Seattle IS a Cathedral, I think. Absolutely wonderful.

  2. FYI–a book you might want to look at is The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World, by Guillaume de Laubier. Lovely photos (incl. NYPL, as I recall).

  3. I’ve seen these pictures before somewhere.

  4. Hey, I’ve actually been to one of those: Suzallo Library at the University of Washington in Seattle. It’s every bit as beautiful as the picture, though contra John B. it’s not a cathedral. It is meant to resemble one, though.

  5. I’m surprised he had Beineke but not Sterling, a cathedral among libraries. By comparison, Widener is a temple, and Rockefeller (the Rock) is a bunker.

  6. Yes, I missed Sterling too. How many happy hours I spent there!

  7. I saw some of these photos on another blog and was disappointed to see the Peabody in Baltimore left out; imagine my joy, then, to see it really was included. I love that building–knowing it exists in this city has always made Baltimore a little more sexy to me. (PS this is Bambo of long ago; work kind of ate me alive for a while but I just quit, so I’m re-engaging with the blogosphere.)

  8. Hi, Bambo! (Your new moniker is very apropos — my wife was saying that just last night.)

  9. Having been raised in Alençon (France), I was pleasantly surprised to see a picture of its beautiful and ancient public library, in spite of the fact that the photograph (not as professional as the others) only shows a small portion which fails to convey the sense of the place and the reason why it has been included in the list of those “cathedrals of learning”. As with many other old libraries, the modern collections are housed in an annex (itself part of an 18th-century building directly connected to the library).
    I was there a few weeks ago and the old part of the library was filled with an exhibit on the local printer and publisher Poulet-Malassis who published Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal among other controversial works, and was condemned to pay a heavy fine as well as to tear off some pages from the printed copies.
    In Seattle the old part of the Suzzallo library at the University of Washington is built on a Gothic-type model, with a monumental Renaissance stairway on each side within the main entrance. From the outside the building is all the more impressive because it is on one of the edges of a great plaza ending in a wide flight of steps which goes down towards the streets, passing a giant statue of Washington on the way. On one of its ends, the ornate cathedral-style library is joined to a modern part facing away from it, which does not try to ape the old style but has an even more monumental quality. This façade is built of brick and takes advantage of the angular quality of the material. Three quadrangular chimneys of slightly different heights rise in front of the building, accentuating its stark and vertical character, and dominate another plaza also made of brick, which connects with the older plaza on the Gothic side (the façades of the old and new parts of the library cannot be seen together and therefore do not clash). A high, horizontal brick arch joins the brick-faced building to an annex. Altogether, the UW library is a place worth seeing, both from the inside and from the outside.
    Among beautiful modern libraries I would definitely place the airy and spacious Koerner library at the U of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, B.C., built to replace an old, claustrophobia-inducing medieval-style horror.

  10. @ LH: Please give your wife my sympathy. I’ve been reading the dude for over a year now, on and off, and he is kind of an editor’s nightmare. Talented, but a nightmare.

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