Books Magazine

Guest Post: Five Great Distinctive Libraries

By Donnambr @_mrs_b

Libraries have existed for almost as long as the ability to record knowledge has been widespread, and there have been many fine examples over the course of time; although the methods of gaining and retaining this knowledge have become a little more forgiving over the centuries.

1. Library of Alexandria

The first ever recorded library was, of course, the famous Library of Alexandria, founded in approximately 228BC. Said to have housed over 700,000 scrolls, it was known as a favoured study place of the mathematician Euclid, the scientist Herophilius and the astronomer Aristarchus. Though founded by Emperor Alexander, after his death possession of the library passed to pharaoh Ptolemy 1, and his favorite methods of acquiring new scrolls involved searching all ships and confiscating any reading materials, and borrowing from the Athens archives, then returning only copies and keeping the originals.

2. The Bodleian

Guest post: Five Great Distinctive Libraries

The Bodleian in Oxford is one of the oldest libraries in the world that is still in use, for its original purpose, today. One librarian here famously refused to lend books to both Charles 1st and Oliver Cromwell, stating that books were to be read on the premises or not at all. As England tried to rid itself of all traces of Catholicism in the sixteenth century, a lot of the original prints were burnt or otherwise destroyed. This was the point at which Sir Thomas Bodley, for whom the building is now named, came forward and offered cash and books to help get it back on its feet. Today it holds eleven million volumes – and you still can’t take books off the premises!

3. The Library of Congress

Guest post: Five Great Distinctive Libraries

Also known as Jefferson’s Legacy, the Library of Congress was founded in Washington in 1800B.C. The library’s core collection was destroyed just fourteen years later in the War of Independence. However, this was when Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, hence the second name. Today it claims to be the largest library in the world, boasting over 650 miles of bookshelves.

4. The Nationalbibliothek

Guest post: Five Great Distinctive Libraries

The Nationalbibliothek in Vienna was the former court library. Whilst still a fully functioning library, its’ appeal these days is more of a tourist attraction, but it is well worth a visit. It is the largest baroque library in Europe, and the building itself is impressive enough to warrant a visit, even if you have no interest in books. A popular location for school trips, the décor is certainly more extravagant than school library furniture.

5. The British Library

Guest post: Five Great Distinctive Libraries

And finally, whilst still only forty years old in its current incarnation, the British Library houses a copy of every single publication in print in the UK and Ireland, alongside an impressive collection of foreign publications. Formerly the British Museum Library, this collection has been praised by the likes of Karl Marx, Lenin, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf.

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