A new book by arthouse publisher Taschen collects photos of the world’s most extraordinary libraries as captured by Massimo Listri. The Italian photographer traveled to some of the oldest and finest libraries around the world to celebrate their architectural and historical grandeur.
According to the publisher, Listri’s journey leads readers through “Outstanding private, public, educational, and monastic libraries, dating as far back as 766. Between them, these medieval, classical, baroque, rococo, and 19th-century institutions hold some of the most precious records of human thought and deed, inscribed and printed in manuscripts, volumes, papyrus scrolls, and incunabula.”
In each entry, Listri’s images capture the library’s unique atmosphere, as much as their most prized holdings and design detail.
Libraries featured in The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries include the papal collections of the Vatican Apostolic Library, Trinity College Library, home to the Book of Kells and Book of Durrow, and the holdings of the Laurentian Library in Florence, the private library of the powerful House of Medici, designed by Michelangelo.
Also anthologized, the Czech capital’s Strahov Monastery, which houses the Czech Republic’s largest monastic library and is comprised of two beautiful baroque library halls and a “cabinet of curiosities.”
The library’s Theological Hall, built in 1679, houses ancient globes and rare manuscripts and is dominated by a low curved ceiling with intricate stucco designs. The larger Philosophical Hall, from the late 18th century, encompasses two levels of bookcases and an ornate ceiling fresco.
The oversized 560-pages volume costs 150 EUR; if you’re in Prague, however, you can visit the library in person for a bit less: it’s open daily throughout the year (except December 24th and December 25th and Easter Sunday, April 1). Admission is 120 CZK. Visit between 9 am and 5 pm’; the library closes for lunchtime between 12 pm and 1 pm.