“Libraries were and remain statements of prestige as well as aesthetic and architectural sophistication,” librarian and scholar Georg Ruppelt writes in an essay for “The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” – a book of images by Italian photograph Massimo Listri. In this new photographic journey, Massimo Listri travels to some of the oldest and finest libraries to reveal their architectural, historical, and imaginative wonder. Through great wooden doors, up against spiraling staircases, and along exquisite, shelf-lined corridors, he leads us through outstanding private, public, educational, and monastic libraries, dating as far back as 766. In each, Listri’s poised images capture the library’s unique atmosphere, as much as their most prized holdings and design details. We decide to offer you a look at some of those libraries and picked ten of the most eye-catching grand, palatial temples of books.
Trinity College Library – located in the heart of Dublin City, a walk through the cobbled stones of Trinity College Dublin will bring visitors back to the 18th century, when the magnificent Old Library building was constructed. Inside is housed the Book of Kells – a 9th-century gospel manuscript famous throughout the world.
The Biblioteca do Convento de Mafra is located in Portugal’s national palace in Lisbon. Now a museum, the royal library was founded in 1717 and now holds 36,000 volumes.
The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading) – located in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, holds more than 350,000 volumes dating back to the 16th century – the largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal.
The Laurentian Library is a historic library in Florence, Italy, containing more than 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 early printed books.
Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was founded as a national art museum in the early 19th century. The research library, housed in a building erected in 1885 by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, holds around 450,000 books.
The Strahovská Knihovna (Strahov Library) is a monastic library in Prague founded in 1143. Parts of the current building date back to the 1600s.
The Biblioteca Classense’s roots can be traced back to an abbey established near Ravenna, Italy, in the 11th century. The main hall was built in the early 1700s, and while it’s now a public library, its 800,000-work collection still includes 350 medieval codices and 800 incunabula from its early history.
The Stiftsbibliothek Sankt Gallen – located in St. Gallen, Switzerland was founded in 612 as a monastic library. The collection survived a 10th century fire that destroyed the rest of the Abbey of St. Gall, and is now one of the oldest libraries in the world.
The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris is now a university library containing 2 million holdings, but it got its start as a monastic library dating back to the Middle Ages. The building was erected in the mid-19th century, but some of the collection can be traced back to the 1100s.
The Morgan Library & Museum – formerly the Pierpont Morgan Library – is a museum and research library located at 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.