Like Libraries?

"...Above all things Truth beareth away the victory."
(The Apocrypha, 1 Esdras, chapter 3, line 12; inscribed at the entrance
of the main branch of the New York Public Library.)

I really like libraries. If you like libraries as well, then, like me, you could spend an inordinate amount of time perusing the Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries over at Curious Expeditions. This is a website I could get lost in for days.

This is the Handelingenkamer Tweede Kamer Der Staten-Generaal Den Haag in the Netherlands and this photograph made me gasp out loud at its winding spiral staircases and elegant railings. Apparently, Handelingen means "reports," although for us English-speakers they've translated Handelingenkamer as Old Library. [Perhaps Anya or some other Dutch reader can fill us in if I've completely misinterpreted.]

Whatever it means, it is extraordinarily beautiful and, in typical Dutch fashion, useful: the library is topped with a leaded-glass dome to allow daylight to flood all four levels, so that (back in the day) they could keep combustible candles and gas lamps out of the library.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) lions have become symbols for New York City. I've used this library on occasion and it is big, beautiful, overwhelming, and simply amazing. I just found out today that the two lions are named Patience and Fortitude. (Great NYPL trivia--about the sculptures and inscriptions behind the lions--here.)

This is the public research room at the main branch of the NYPL
(yes, the branch with the lions).

Another discovery I made today is the NYPL Digital Gallery, which "provides free and open access to over 685,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more." (You know how much I like maps.)

This is the Old Reading Room at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. I had to include it not only because it is lovely, but because Mr. O'Kitten's cousin works here, and we like her a whole bunch.

This is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. The walls have translucent marble panels. See how they're almost tiger-stripy in a weirdly futuristic way? The climate-controlled glass-enclosed part in the middle contains the rare books and manuscripts. This library has one of the remaining Gutenberg Bibles. The fact that I have actually seen this extraordinary part of human history with my own two eyes still strikes me as both odd and exceedingly wonderful.

This is my college library, the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale. It looks far more like a cathedral than a library.

It now houses about 4 million volumes. The stacks would give you vertigo. When I was there in the late 1980s the system wasn't computerized, so I spent a lot of time using this:

...the Sterling Memorial Library card catalogue. It too could give you vertigo.

These are the Sterling Library stacks. Yes, they are as old as they look -- the Library and its sixteen-level "book tower" opened in 1931. I'm sure they are quite haunted.

Good night, Sterling Library.


Chris said...

If you ever make it to Rochester, MN, there's a bookstore (I know! Not a library!) that's amazing - Barnes & Noble renovated the historic Chateau Theater - it's very fun to browse for books under a starry sky, with castle walls around you.

KJ Callaway said...


OK now I really need to come and visit you so we can go spend a day snooping around the NYC library together.


Crypt Stitch said...

Beautiful! Is it weird to want to live in a library?