El Ateneo Grand Splendid (bookstore), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Photo from flickr.

Presenting sixteen libraries and sixteen bookstores you have to see before you die. How amazing are these places? They are all so incredible that I tried to write more about them, but I couldn’t pick just a few to talk about. I could barely even figure out which ones I should include photos of.

Library at El Escorial, Madrid, Spain. Photo from flickr (by cuellar).

I really enjoy the fact that they are so aesthetically diverse. Evidently, there is no formula for an awe-inspiring library or charming bookstore. I particularly like the Baroque libraries, with their luxurious marble, elegant statues, and majestic painted ceilings. Even though I prefer all things old, I have to say that some of the contemporary ones are very cool also.

Cafebreria El Pendulo (bookstore), Mexico City, Mexico.
Photo from culturacolectiva.com.

I wonder how many of these spaces were built specifically to house books and how many have been re-purposed. Two of the bookstores (#1 & #16) clearly used to be theatres. Quite a few of the libraries look like they could have originally been part of palaces or manor houses, but those kinds of massive dwellings probably had their own built-in libraries to start with. Some also resemble churches, but I highly doubt they ever actually were churches.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland. Photo from citytripplanner.com.

Which libraries and bookstores would you most like to visit? Have you been to any of these places or other amazing houses of books? I would love to hear all about it.

Update (12/24/13): My friends Karl and Lorna, who are Yale alumni, had lots of great things to say about Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (#2 on the library list).  As Karl described it: “The walls of the building are made of marble, but cut so thin that the marble is translucent, so it creates this intensely rich and always changing light inside the building. The space is also basically one giant room so it’s all very simple and serene. They have an original Gutenberg Bible on display and they turn one page a day, and tons of original manuscripts kept in atmosphere-controlled stacks, complete with airlocks. You can have access to the manuscripts and use only soft pencils when in the library. Lorna did a bunch of work on Edith Wharton in there, and I’ve only been inside to take a look around. We used to walk past it every day on the way to the dining halls!”

It sounds absolutely amazing. Thanks, Karl and Lorna!

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Photo from beinecke.library.yale.edu.
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