Where is all the knowledge of the world collected? Famous libraries
Journeys | 23.09.2020
For centuries, libraries have been the main source of knowledge and custodians of artifacts from the past. For today's tourists, libraries represent first of all an amazing atmosphere and outstanding architecture. Besides, some libraries are being transformed into public spaces where you can have a good time. We have made a list of worth visiting libraries for all history lovers and not only for them.
Library of Congress, Washington
The Library of Congress is the National Library of the United States and the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. It consists of three buildings, but the Library of Congress is the largest in the world in terms of shelves and volumes. The library holdings are huge – it contains more than 32 million books and 61 million manuscripts, more than a million newspapers over the past three centuries, more than 5 million maps, 6 million sheet music books, more than 14 million photographs. In addition, the library's treasury contains such rarities as a draft of the US Declaration of Independence and one of four parchment copies of the Gutenberg Bible in perfect condition.
The library is usually open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, except Sunday. Admission is free, you do not need to buy a ticket. At the moment, due to the pandemic, the library is temporarily closed for tourists. Therefore, all that is left to do is to admire the complex from the outside – the building of Thomas Jefferson, built in the solemn Beaux-Arts style, looks especially impressive.
Bodleian Library, Oxford
One of the oldest in Europe, the Bodleian Library was founded in 1602 as the library of the University of Oxford. More than 11 million items are kept here, many of them are of historical importance. Among them there are four copies of the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare's First Folio. Although the Bodleian Library consists of several buildings, the most interesting is the Radcliffe Camera, built in 1737-1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. The first "round" library in England, Radcliffe Camera gained its fame by appearing in several films including "Young Sherlock Holmes", "The Saint", "Red Violin" and "The Golden Compass".
The Bodleian Library is available for tourist groups. The schedule and cost of the tours can be found on the website.
Vatican Library, Rome
The Vatican Library is under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome. Although officially founded in 1475, in fact, the library can be considered the same age as the Catholic Church. For almost 600 years, the library has expanded its collection through historical acquisitions, bequests of eminent patrons and generous gifts. The Vatican Library now houses over 1.1 million books, 75,000 manuscripts and over 8,500 incunabula, rare specimens from the early printing era. Taking into account its profile, it should come as a no surprise that the institution owns the oldest complete manuscript of the Bible, as well as many other significant works of the Middle Ages.
Due to the high value of the archive, tourists are not allowed to get inside the library itself. Some examples from the holding are exhibited in the Vatican museums.
The Library of Parliament, Canada, Ottawa
The Library of Parliament is the only library so well known that its image is printed on the national currency (it is depicted on the ten-dollar bill of Canada). The design of this national landmark was inspired by the British Museum reference room. The interior ensemble includes walls supported by 16 arc-boutants, an arched ceiling in the main reference room, and white pine panels with detailed carvings of flowers, masks and mythical creatures. The collection includes over 600,000 items and is overseen by a team of 300 people.
The institution is restricted to the general public, but can usually be easily reached by enrolling on an excursion to Parliament. At the moment, due to the pandemic, excursions have been suspended, but walking around the Gothic monument reminiscent of medieval cathedrals is also a good idea.
Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is the oldest library in Switzerland. The founder of the library, Saint Othmar, is also credited with creating the abbey of the same name in 719. St. Gallen contains about 160,000 volumes, including manuscripts of the 8th century. In 1983, UNESCO declared the library a World Heritage Site, calling it "a fine example of an outstanding Carolingian monastery". The library offers online access to many of its collections through an electronic database, although, as a rule, books printed before 1900 can only be read on site.
The library is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A standard ticket costs 12 CHF, for more information see the website.
Austrian National Library
Like the US Library of Congress, the Austrian National Library is responsible for managing the collection of all publications that appear in Austria. Among the most famous works are the world's best collection of globes, rare books of the 4th century, and the Vienna Dioscurides, an illustrated 6th century manuscript dedicated to medicine (a UNESCO World Memory program object). In addition, there is a collection of maps dated before the 16th century. The library was originally located in Prunksaal, and now it is located in the Hofburg and Mollard-Clary palaces (7.4 million copies are stored here).
The opening hours of the National Library are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., closed on Monday. Ticket prices are specified on the website.
Royal Library of Denmark, Copenhagen
The Royal Library of Denmark was founded in 1648 by King Frederick III. It is the largest library in Scandinavia. Almost all Danish books are kept here, starting with the very first one, printed in 1482, as well as such interesting artifacts as the original correspondence of Hans Christian Andersen and historical maps of the polar region. The holdings also include the Arnamagnan Collection, named after the Icelandic scholar Árni Magnússon, who devoted the greater part of his life to collecting manuscripts from Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
The library may be visited for free. The opening hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., closed on Sunday.
Library of the Strahov Monastery, Prague
The library holds more than 50,000 volumes, and the interior is beautifully decorated with baroque elements, wood, and marvelous ceiling paintings.
The room is divided into two spaces: the Theological Hall designed by Giovanni Domenico Orsi and the Philosophical Hall designed by Jan Ignác Palliardi. The Theological Hall was named this way because of its northern wall. There are shelves on it which only store various editions and parts of the Bible in many languages.
The library is open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. An adult ticket costs 150 Czech korunas. More details on pricing can be found on the official site.
Wiblingen Monastery Library, Ulm
The Wiblingen Monastery was founded in 1093 and rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 18th century. This library is highly appreciated by both art historians and tourists for its rich ornament and a beautiful ceiling with frescoes. At the entrance to Wiblingen, it is written "In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae", which in Latin means "Where all the treasures of knowledge and science are kept". The archival depository of the library contain a large collection of images related to both pagan and Christian knowledge.
The monastery and the library are open every day except Monday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cost of visiting the complex is 5 euros. More information on tariffs is available on the website.
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