Skip to navigationSkip to content
STACKS ON STACKS

Europe’s extravagant libraries are glorified in a new coffee table book

Taschen/Massimo Listri
Look but don’t touch.
By Thu-Huong Ha
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A new book, The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, by Massimo Listri, envisions libraries as art objects.

The book contains photos of the decadent barrel-vaulted ceilings and ornate moldings of 55 libraries in 16 countries (mostly in Europe), dating back to 766. It comes out from Taschen in the US on Aug. 8.

The Italian photographer captured the Biblioteca dei Girolamini, the oldest library in Naples, and Dublin’s Trinity College library, which houses five million volumes. For the most part, these are stately photos, evoking temples of knowledge. Actual readers are altogether absent from the book.

The photos are accompanied by text from Georg Ruppelt and Elisabeth Sladek in English, French, and German, giving historic background on each featured library. For the most part, the histories are dry, but they do contain a few tidbits of trivia: Portugal’s royal library of Mafra, for example, was given special rights by the pope in 1745 to keep books from the Vatican’s Index of Forbidden Books. Only people with permission from the king could access them.

Taschen/Massimo Listri
Sainte-Geneviève library, Paris, France
Taschen/Massimo Listri
Strahov Library, Prague, Czech Republic
Taschen/Massimo Listri
The library of the Girolamini, Naples, Italy
Taschen/Massimo Listri
The Mafra Palace library, Mafra, Portugal
Taschen/Massimo Listri
Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
Taschen/Massimo Listri
Rijksmuseum research library, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Taschen/Massimo Listri
Vatican Apostolic Library, Rome, Italy
Taschen/Massimo Listri
Abbey library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.