Portugal’s João the Magnanimous astonished the rector of the University of Coimbra by telling him that his request for help towards library facilities was too modest; the lavish result was financed with gold reserves that had been recently discovered in Brazil.
Picture: Will Pryce
Camouflaged into its surroundings, the library at Liyuan, two hours north of Beijing, has a facade of flexed twigs wedged between rusty steel rails. Inside, bookshelves are used as floor, stairs, seats and tables.
Every element in the library of the Glasgow School of Art (1909) was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who had taken evening classes in architecture at the university in 1883.
Since its opening in 1771, the Mafra Palace Library has been home to a colony of tiny bats; they roost behind the cases in winter, and in the orchard outside in the summer, swooping in during the night to eat insects which would otherwise damage the books.
Constructed in the mid-19th century, the Sainte-Geneviève library’s iron roof has echoes of the railway buildings of the time.
In the remote Buddhist monastery of Haeinsa is preserved the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world, dating from 1251.
The books in the abbey’s original collection were re-bound in white – at enormous expense – to match the rest of the decorative scheme. The bronze sculptures are actually made from wood.
Designed by Tadao Ando, the museum is home to the 20,000 books collected during his lifetime by the historical novelist Shiba Ryotaro.
The statues, which represent the virtues and the disciplines, and the columns are timber made to resemble marble (a technique known as scagliola).
The library at All Souls was designed by Hawksmoor, though he did not live to see the building completed.
George Peabody was the founder of the charity which continues to finance housing for low-income families in London; he also endowed the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, of which this seven-storey library comprises just part.
The Rococo ceiling of the Theological Hall at Strahov Abbey was added 40 years after the room was initially completed; the masonry vaulting offered a degree of protection from fire – a huge problem in medieval and Renaissance libraries as coal or wood fires were used for heating.
The Escorial’s was the first major library to have its collection arranged in cases lining the walls, rather than in bays jutting out at right angles.
This Rococo library (1742) was designed by Josef Muggenast to deliberately exaggerate the size of the collection; there are only nine bookcases housed in the library.
The Malatesta Library is the oldest library in the Western world to retain its original fittings and collection; it takes its name from a local tyrant, Malatesta Novello, who paid for it and oversaw its building between 1447 and 1452. The position of each book is fixed; the reader goes to the book rather than the book being brought by or to the reader.
Designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron, the Cottbus library features brightly coloured concrete spiral staircases.