Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I know, I know...

I shouldn't be thinking about libraries. I'm on vacation, right? Still, I'm a bibliophile through and through, and quite possibly can't help it. I like old books, I like new books, and as much as I whine about my job at times, I really like libraries. They've always seemed to be magical places, reliquaries...all those shelves, holding all those books, that have all those pages containing the secrets of the universe. (and to think...I am a sentry!)

Unfortunately, because books are now mass produced, easily had and cheaply acquired, libraries are no longer designed to be sacred space. Function trumps form, reading rooms are transfigured into computer labs, card catalogs are relegated to dusty basements.

Luckily, the old libraries are being saved and cherished. You can see some them at Librophiliac Love Letter. Some of them just take my breath away.

And for those of us marvel at old documents, illustrations, and photographs, the New York Public Library has made a digital gallery. The collection is extensive, with an A to Z list of subjects so intriguing that I could spend hours at the site. Everything is cataloged and cross-referenced, and the images are just stunning, like this:
[Smith & Wesson pistol.] Digital ID: 835115. New York Public Library

and this:
Harry Houdini Digital ID: TH-21684. New York Public Library

and this:
America with those known parts... Digital ID: 54662. New York Public Library



BobG said...

I love going to a library; my favorites are when there are a lot of old volumes; the type that are bound the old-fashioned way, in leather and/or fabric.
I have a first-edition (1885) set of the Thousand Nights and A Night, translated by Richard Francis Burton. There were only 1000 numbered sets printed for private subscription. The volumes have a different look, feel, and smell than modern books. I also have some other books from 80 to 100+ years old; there is nothing quite like them.

staghounds said...

Have you seen this book?

Candida Höfer- Libraries

Introduction by Umberto Eco

‘Breathtaking … brings out the scale and beauty of these temples of learning’
– The Sunday Telegraph

Candida Höfer's photographs of libraries are sober and restrained...

James said...

When you're not on vacation, you should check out LibraryThing. It's one of the best sites I've ever found for bibliomaniacs.

I'm always slightly suspicious of people who profess to not like books. There's just something wrong about that.