German luxury art and culture publisher Taschen is releasing one of its most treasured titles in a new XXL format, and you'll want to make space on your coffee table right away. In The World's Most Beautiful Libraries, photographer Massimo Listri takes us on a tour of the world's finest repositories for rare books, manuscripts and other precious printed artifacts.
From medieval to 19th-century institutions, and spanning collections both public and private, the focus is on Europe, but some more far-flung destinations put in an appearance as well, such as the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, in Rio de Janeiro, above. Through the often impressive front doors, "up spiraling staircases, and along exquisite, shelf-lined corridors," Listri visits libraries dating as far back as the 8th century, through the 1900s.
Featured libraries include the papal collections of the Vatican Apostolic Library; the storied Trinity College Library in Dublin which reeks of history; the Laurentian Library in Florence, the private library of the powerful House of Medici; and the relatively sober Rijksmuseum Research Library in Amsterdam (above).
With "meticulous descriptions accompanying each featured library," we learn about their incredible collections, along with illustrated highlights, but also of the buildings' "often lively, turbulent, or controversial pasts"—such as the Franciscan monastery in Lima, Peru, filled with archival documents from the Inquisition.
"Like no other concept and like no other space, the collection of knowledge, learning, and imagination offers a sense of infinite possibility," authors Georg Ruppelt and Elisabeth Sladek note. "It’s the unrivaled realm of discovery, where every faded manuscript or mighty clothbound tome might reveal a provocative new idea, a far-flung fantasy, an ancient belief, a religious conviction, or a whole new way of being in the world."
Between them, these beautiful "medieval, classical, baroque, rococo, and 19th-century institutions hold some of the most precious records of human thought and deed," inscribed and printed in manuscripts, volumes, papyrus scrolls, and more.
With a list price of $200, the XXL version is a fitting tribute to these incredible edifices, one that deserves a place on their shelves and yours.