Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: "The Library: An Illustrated History"

The Library: An Illustrated History
by Stuart A.P. Murray
New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009

"The Library: An Illustrated History" is a must-read for anyone who loves books or libraries. Stuart A.P. Murphy, an author and editor for nearly forty years, takes on the challenging task of presenting the history of libraries around the world and succeeds admirably. While some have tolled the death knell for libraries with the advent of the internet and information at the touch of a button, the reverse is actually true. Both library attendance and circulation are up in recent years. Libraries are more relevant and important than ever.

Murphy traces the history of libraries from the most ancient (the famous great library in Alexandria was actually considered a "museum," technically "a place for the Muses, a place of culture. It was the Romans who coined the term "librarii" and opened them up to the general public), through the dark days of the middle ages where monks worked to preserve culture, to the advent of movable type in Asia, through the proliferation of Universities and their corresponding libraries in the late middle ages, the spread of learning during the days of the Renaissance and Reformation, to the libraries of England in the seventeenth century where books were often chained so they couldn't be stolen. Murphy then moves on to colonial America and the library movement of the 1800s in the young United States. He discusses the debate over how to organize all those books and the increased role of librarians. He concludes with a section featuring famous libraries around the world.

Murphy's text is accompanied by a breath-taking array of photographs. These photos will leave any book-lover hoping for more! There are photos of old manuscript pages, art featuring libraries and the creation of books, and stacks upon stacks of books just begging to be read. "The Library: An Illustrated History" is a literary and visual feast for bibliophiles everywhere.

1 comment:

Eric Baker said...

I would to say that book is one that I will have to track down someday and take a look at! Thank you for such an in-depth review.