Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Beautiful Libraries

Curious Expeditions has put together a remarkable collection of photographs of beautiful libraries. This picture of the Philosophical Hall of Strahov Monastery in Prague (Czech Republic) is only one of very many examples.

From an iconic books perspective, the collection illustrates vividly the close association between religious architecture and library architecture. Frequently, as in the case of the Strahov Monastery, they are one and the same thing.

Even, perhaps especially, secular universities often repeat the trope of the library as the "soul" of the university. Donors and architects have literalized that metaphor with library temples in stone, steel, wood and concrete. Elaborate libraries have thus become the ultimate reliquaries for that nearly universal icon of knowledge and wisdom, the book.

However, for a very different aesthetic of library design, see the winning concept for a new Czech national library. Thanks to Lu Terceiro for pointing out both items.


April DeConick said...

The library that I was very impressed with was the Bodelian at Oxford. When I was there I felt that I had walked through a portal into a monastic library of the middle ages. It was so much the beauty of the library, but the effect that it had on me when I was present within it.

Jim Watts said...

Yes, I've felt that effect in the Bodleian too--and in the main reading room of the Stirling Library (built to imitate a gothic cathedral) and the wood-lined, two story Day Mission library room, both at Yale. And despite analyzing the social power symbolized by the architecture of such libraries, I still enjoy the feeling!