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The Library

A World History

James W P Campbell, Will Pryce

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The definitive worldwide architectural history of the library, with spectacular original photography by one of the finest architectural photographers at work today


Ambitious and wide-ranging, this is the first single volume to tell the story of the library as a distinct building type, all around the world and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. In its highest form the library is a total work of art, combining painting, sculpture, furniture and architecture. From their designs for the libraries of ancient Rome to those of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, architects have sought to outdo each other by producing ever more spectacular settings.

The author and photographer have travelled the globe, documenting some eighty libraries. Architectural historian James Campbell contributes an authoritative and highly readable account accompanied by photographs by Will Pryce, one of the world’s leading photographers of interiors and architecture. Arresting and technically flawless, his photographs are both lucid and deeply atmospheric.

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Sunday Telegraph

'A lavish tribute to the architecture of libraries, the culture of learning and our ever-changing relationship with the written word from ancient to medieval modern … this great book is itself a rich library'
Saga Magazine

'A fascinating read for anyone who appreciates books and the beautiful buildings they’re housed in'
Elle Decoration

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Edition Type: Compact edition

Size: 29.3 x 22.8 cm

Extent: 328 pp

Illustrations: 292

Publication date: 20 August 2020

ISBN: 9780500023525

Contents List

Preface; Introduction • 1. Lost Beginnings – Libraries in the Ancient World • 2. Cloisters, Codices and Chests – Libraries in the Middle Ages• 3. Cupboards, Chains and Stalls – Libraries in the Sixteenth Century • 4. Walls, Domes and Alcoves – Libraries in the Seventeenth Century • 5. Angels, Frescoes and Secret Doors – Libraries in the Eighteenth Century • 6. Iron Stacks, Gas Lights and Card Catalogues – Libraries in the Nineteenth Century • 7. Electricity, Concrete and Steel – Libraries in the Twentieth Century • 8. The Future of Libraries in the Electronic Age

About the Author

Dr James Campbell, an architect and art historian, is Seear Fellow in Architecture and History of Art at Queen’s College, Cambridge. His books include The Library: A World History and Brick: A World History, both published by Thames & Hudson.

Will Pryce, a trained architect and award-winning photographer, is the author of six books, all published by Thames & Hudson.