Good Read #004: Libraries in Pictures
It has been a while since I last posted a “good read,” so I am trying to catch up. Last month, I highlighted Matthew Battles’ Library: An Unquiet History. For another sweeping account of the history of libraries, let me point you to The Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart A. P. Murray (ALA, 2009). Much like Battles, Murray does not attempt to present an all-encompassing history of libraries. Rather he provides small windows to catch glimpses of libraries throughout history and around the globe. And, as the subtitle indicates, this nicely-bound book is filled with wonderful color illustrations throughout which help to visualize the text. Honestly, the book is worth picking up for the illustrations alone. (It does have something of a coffee table book feel to it.)
For the most part the book is divided into chapters which move chronologically through history–from the ancient times; through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation; and all the way to the budding 21st century. There also are chapters devoted to particular continents or cultures, such as the “Asia and Islam” and “The Library in Colonial North America” chapters. The text does become repetitive at points, but it doesn’t really hurt the flow of the book. Actually the book doesn’t necessarily need to be read from cover to cover.
A final section on “Libraries of the World” provides brief snapshots of almost 50 libraries around the globe. Murray admits that his selection of libraries for this section of the book is somewhat random. He states that “this selection is representative of certain types of libraries, though it can only introduce them.” Murray further adds that perhaps the reader’s interest will be piqued enough to consider visiting these and other libraries of the world. There certainly are some libraries included here that I would love to see in person.
For those who wish to read more than what is contained in this book, Murray includes a list of suggestions for further reading.
Lovers of books and libraries, let me recommend The Library: An Illustrated History for your reading list.