A library with no books: oral traditions and the songlines -- The pleasure of books -- The last days of Alexandria: ancient books and their storage -- Books in bed -- In pursuit of perfection: the rise of the codex -- Fools in love -- "A damned sewerful of men": Renaissance rediscoveries -- Mean-spirited collectors -- Free for all: the abundance of books in the printing era -- Curiosities -- "What the barbarians did not do": the Vatican Library -- Delicacies -- Secret histories: tricks and treasures in library design -- Found -- Keepers of books: the best and worst librarians in history -- Vandals -- The quintessence of debauchery: Heber, Byron, and Barry -- Writers' libraries -- Execration upon Vulcan: libraries destroyed by fire and war -- Library fauna -- The Count: book looters and thieves -- Book wheels and machines -- "The interior of a library should whisper": the Pierpont Morgan Library -- When disaster strikes -- For the glory: the Folger Shakespeare Library -- Birth -- Killing a monk: fantasy libraries -- Death -- A love letter: libraries for the future -- Afterlife.
"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 importantly, 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." -- Provided by publisher.