Libraries are much more than mere collections of volumes. The best are magical, fabled places whose fame has become part of the cultural wealth they are designed to preserve. Some still exist today; some are lost, like those of Herculaneum and Alexandria; some have been sold or dispersed; and some never existed, such as those libraries imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, Umberto Eco, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others.
Ancient libraries, grand baroque libraries, scientific libraries, memorial libraries, personal libraries, clandestine libraries: Stuart Kells tells the stories of their creators, their prizes, their secrets, and their fate. To research this book, Kells traveled around the world with his young family like modern-day "Library Tourists." Kells discovered that all the world's libraries are connected in beautiful and complex ways, that in the history of libraries, fascinating patterns are created and repeated over centuries. More important, he learned that stories about libraries are stories about people, containing every possible human drama.
The Library is a fascinating and engaging exploration of libraries as places of beauty and wonder. It's a celebration of books as objects, a celebration of the anthropology and physicality of books and bookish space, and an account of the human side of these hallowed spaces by a leading and passionate bibliophile.
About the Author
STUART KELLS is an author and book-trade historian. His 2015 history of Penguin Books, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, won the prestigious Ashurst Business Literature Prize. Rare, his critically acclaimed biography of Kay Craddock - the first female president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers - was published in 2011. An authority on rare books, Kells has written and published on many aspects of print culture and the book world.
"In this free-roaming history of libraries, Kells, well read, well traveled, ebullient, and erudite, relishes tales of innovation, obsession, and criminality... Kells' revelatory romp through the centuries cues us to the fact that, as has so often been the case, libraries need our passionate attention and support, our advocacy, gratitude, and (given Kells' tales of book-kissing, including Coleridge pressing his lips to his copy of Spinoza) love." - Booklist (starred review)
"A bright, idiosyncratic tour of a book historian's collected knowledge about libraries and bibliophilia... The book assembles snippets from a wide variety of disciplines into an eclectic history of libraries as cultural, political, aesthetic, literary, mnemonic, and, above all, personal phenomena dedicated to collecting and preserving the written word." - Kirkus Reviews
"Book-trade historian Kells (Penguin and the Lane Brothers) blends scholarly expertise with sharp wit in this enjoyable history of libraries... Kells's passion for this subject suffuses this pleasurable book, calling readers to understand the importance of the library's role preserving humanity's history and why libraries are still relevant today." - Publishers Weekly
"Kells' fervor is visible from the outset... Will delight and educate." - Chicago Review of Books
"If you think you know what a library is, this marvellously idiosyncratic book will make you think again." - The Sydney Morning Herald
"The Library charts the transition between formats such as papyrus scrolls, parchment codices, moveable type, and ebooks. There are many whimsical detours along the way, and Kells even devotes a chapter to fantasy libraries... Kells translates his stunning depth of research into breezy digestibility." - Big Issue
"There is so much to learn and enjoy in this book, with the impressive amount of research never weighing down the accessible writing... Kells makes an elegant plea for the future library--one that will resonate with most book lovers." - Good Reading
"Bibliophiles will be unable to resist a book so in line with their adoration of these sacred spaces." - Fine Books & Collections
"Kells's tale is an homage to libraries everywhere. It will delight all bibliomaniacs and those who still appreciate the tactile connection with the book, its smell, watermarks, and imperfections, and who relish in walking through stacks and library halls where many minds, illustrious or not, have wandered before them." - EuropeNow
"Rich with gossipy tales of the inspired, crazy, brilliant, and terrible people who have founded or encountered libraries through history... Kells's reflections are wonderfully romantic, wryly funny." - The Australian
"The Library is a treasure trove and reaching the last page simply prompts an impassioned cry for more of the same." - Otago Daily Times
"The Library is ultimately an engaging and well-written volume by a knowledgeable expert and passionate fan of the subject matter. The result is almost like poetry, a rich ode to all things books and everything we love about them. The enjoyment and engagement is so palpable you can almost taste it and Kells proves to be the perfect guide through the subject matter and history, which ironically could have been lost were it not recorded in this faithful tome. You could consider The Library the good book, except that that one was already taken..." - The Australian Review
"Brimming with strange anecdotes about a small handful of books owned by a small handful of people; lost books yielding strange surprises, from discarded condoms to misplaced dental appointment slips... Kells's The Library is at its best when it recounts the stories of... ancient libraries, charting the accidental trails of books, and therefore ideas, through processes of translating, pirating and appropriation." - The Conversation