By Michelle Yastremsky
The feel of a worn binding in your hands, the intoxicating smell of a room of old books, the excitement of engaging with your favorite literary characters – there are few things quite as powerful. Here are 8 libraries that go far beyond the bookshelf and transcend into something as beautiful as the books they house.
These are by no means your typical neighborhood libraries. These are grand works of architectural genius; each shelf, curvature and even chair has been intently chosen to enhance the reading experience. Now what are you waiting for? Go get lost in their shelves!
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Explore the famous Long Room.
The Trinity College Library is perhaps one of the most recognizable libraries in the world; its Long Room has served as inspiration for set design in various films (we're looking at you, George Lucas). This literary gem also houses one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic as well as the illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells.
Home to almost 80,000 printed works.
The city of Melk is about an hour drive from Vienna, making it an easy day trip from Austria’s capital city. Housed in a palace turned abbey, the library at Melk Abbey is certainly a destination point. Take in the beauty of the worn books, ranging from the 14th to 18th century, while surrounded by one of the stunning frescos.
The largest number of Portugese works outside Portugal.
This shrine to literature is a must-visit for bibliophiles. It was originally established by three Portuguese immigrants who yearned for the works of their homeland and thus starting collecting books. Today it houses over 350,000 works to date with new books being added yearly.
Over 40,000 volumes to admire.
This breathtaking library can be found within the Royal Site of San Lorenze de El Escorial, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the many royal sites of Spain. Enjoy the broad collection while being surrounded by the stunning frescoes which decorate the library’s ceiling.
Books dating as far back as the 11th century.
The library’s cryptic feel is appropriate as it is housed above the Monastery’s famous Burial Crypts. This library is home to about 25,000 books with a focus on unique or rare editions.
George Peabody Library • Baltimore, Maryland
300,000 volumes of literature.
George Peabody, for who this library was named, had a vision to create a library “for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it.” Those with a taste for architecture as well as literature are sure to be moved by the library’s imposing Neo-Greco interior.
Over 200,000 works to enjoy.
The collection found in this baroque library focuses on prints from the 16th and 18th century. Grab one of the ancient works and dive into its contents with a quick break in the reading room.
7.4 million items in its collection.
Austria’s National Library is a fantastic reflection of the country’s appreciation for architecture. Located within the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, you'll find a broad collection of books, manuscripts, maps and even music.