LIBRARY OF CONGRESS // USA
Images courtesy of NCinDC’s and BamaLawDog’s Flickr streams.
The Library of Congress, is the largest library in the entire world as ranked by both shelf space and number of books. Among its several buildings, the oldest is the Thomas Jefferson Building, which just might be the most beautiful structure in the library system. Completed in 1897, the library’s neoclassical style features some of the most intricate interiors of any building in the U.S., including murals and sculptures from a variety of classically-trained American artists. Interestingly, the building’s exterior was even more lavish than it is now, as it was originally gilded, but this was criticized as it was believed to draw attention away from the Capitol Building. These days, the roof consists merely of copper that has aged to a sea green shade.
The main hall of the Strahov library in Prague
‘Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome
The library of Trinity College, Ireland
Benoit Doppagne, Getty Images
Bibliotheque Mazarine, Paris
Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris
‘BNF, site Francois-Mitterrand, Paris
The Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen
Stift Admont – Bibliothek, Austria
The State Library of New South Wales (also known as the Mitchell Library) in Sydney, Australia
Christopher Chan, Flickr
Melk Monastery Library, Austria
Biblioteca Geral University of Coimbra, Portugal
Images courtesy of Miguel Bernas’and Beth Hoffman’s Flickr streams.
The Library of El Escorial, Spain
Image courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar’s Flickr stream
Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Images courtesy of Taco Ekkel’s and Mick L’s Flickr streams.
Image courtesy of Jackie Kever’s Flickr stream.
The library of the Dutch Parliament contains every record of parliamentary hearings and discussions. Because it was built before electric lighting made the storage of books a lot safer, the building was constructed with a massive leaded glass dome in the ceiling to allow in light and minimize the need for candles and gas lamps inside the library.
8. DELFT UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY LIBRARY // NETHERLANDS
Images courtesy of Robert Lochner’s and Thomas Guignard’s Flickr streams.
ABBEY LIBRARY OF ST. GALLEN // SWITZERLAND
Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Stibiwiki.
This lovely library is not only the oldest in Switzerland, but one of the oldest and most important monastery libraries in the world,
10. ADMONT ABBEY LIBRARY // AUSTRIA
Built in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is the largest monastery library in the world.
11. Melk Monastery Library, Austria
The Baroque-styled abbey and the library within were completed in 1736 based on designs by Jakob Prandtauer. The library includes a world-famous collection of musical manuscripts and features stunning frescoes by artist Paul Troger.
12. AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY // AUSTRIA
Images courtesy of Craig Elliot’s and Jessica Curtin’s Flickr streams.
Austria’s largest library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses over 7.4 million items in its collections. The library was completed in 1723 and features sculptures by Lorenzo Mattielli and Peter Strudel and frescoes by Daniel Gran.
13. WIBLINGEN MONASTERY LIBRARY // GERMANY
Image courtesy of volzotan’s Flickr stream.
14. STRAHOV MONASTERY LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC
Image courtesy of Claudia Dias’ Flickr stream.
This impressive library collection contains over 200,000 volumes, including just about every important title printed in central Europe by the end of the 18th century.
15. CLEMENTINUM NATIONAL LIBRARY // CZECH REPUBLIC
Image courtesy of Bruno Delzant’s Flickr stream.
The series of buildings that make up this National Library owe their inception to an 11th century chapel dedicated to Saint Clement (hence the name).
16. THE ROYAL PORTUGUESE READING ROOM // BRAZIL
Images courtesy of Luciano Joaquim’s and Sebastian R.’sFlickr streams.
The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio de Janeiro holds more Portuguese works than anywhere else outside of Portugal, including a number of rare titles.
17. THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF BRAZIL // BRAZIL
Image courtesy of Patricia Valeria’s and Yuken Chen’s Flickr streams.
Another amazing library of Rio, the National Library of Brazil was constructed back in 1810 and has since become the largest library in Latin America and the 7th largest in the world.
18. The National Library of Chile
Image courtesy of Ejercito de Chile’s Flickr stream.
Featuring a similar style to the National Library of Brazil, this beautiful building was designed in 1913 and completed in 1925 with a neoclassical design meant to commemorate the country’s centenary anniversary. Aside from housing the National Library, the building serves as headquarters to the country’s National Archives.
19. THE LIBRARY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY // Peru
Images courtesy of Sierra Michels Slettvet’s and dgphilli’s Flickr streams.
The library in Lima’s San Francisco Monastery is one of the oldest and most beautiful on the continent. The stunning convent was completed in 1672, with renovations and improvements continuing up until 1729. The 25,000 volumes contained therein are extremely rare, chronicling a massive variety of knowledge dating from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries.
20. HOME OF PERUVIAN LITERATURE // PERU
Image courtesy of Chimi Fotos’ Flickr stream.
If you think the architecture of this building looks familiar, that’s because it was a commonly used design for train stations around the early 1900s. As for why this library looks like a train station, well, that’s simple—it used to be one. In fact, it wasn’t converted into a library until 2009. In an effort to get more of the country’s citizens to read and to support the country’s artists and writers, the library features over 20,000 works, mostly written by or about native Peruvians.
21. PUBLIC LIBRARY OF LIMA// PERU
Image courtesy of The Librarian is In.
The previous home to the National Library of Peru, the Public Library of Lima was completed in the 1940s with a small addition completed in 1974. It’s been declared a historical monument by the country’s National Institute of Culture. The main gallery features marble floors and stairs, sculptures of the library’s founders, and gorgeous high ceilings.
22. NATIONAL LIBRARY // COSTA RICA
Images courtesy of The National Library System of Costa Rica and Alex Watkins’ Flickr stream.
With a massive upside-down arch above a glass window and concrete levels sandwiching a fragile-looking glass central story, the National Library of Costa Rica is quite striking. It still appears modern despite being over 40 years old. Unfortunately, the location has been subject to a number of earthquakes, leading to a number of closures over the years.
23. VIRGILIO BARCO LIBRARY // COLOMBIA
Images courtesy of elroquero’s and Colombia Travel’s Flickr streams.
If you are a fan of modern architectural design, then you’ll really love what Colombia has created in the last decade or so. Famed architect Rogelio Salmona designed this library, completed in 2001. Featuring red brick walls, blue water pools and green lawns, this creative design looks like a maze of colors housing a labyrinth of books inside.
24. SPANISH PARK LIBRARY // COLOMBIA
Images courtesy of Daniel Echeverri’s and dfinnecy’sFlickr streams.
25. EPM LIBRARY // COLOMBIA
Images courtesy of Guia de Viajes Oficial de Medellin’s and Biblioteca EPM’sFlickr streams.
26. VILLANUEVA PUBLIC LIBRARY // COLOMBIA
Images courtesy of Nicolas Cabrera via Dezeen.