Altenburg monastery library, Altenburg, Austria
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Baroque in style, this library was built in 1740. Its 48-metre-long hall is decorated with beautiful frescoes by the baroque artist Paul Troger.
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, United States
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With an exterior design that is just as monumental as the interior, this library was completed in 1963. It’s home to Yale University Library’s rare books and archives and is located in the university’s Hewitt Quadrangle.
Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria
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The Austrian National Library is the country’s largest and lies within the Hofburg palace complex in the centre of Vienna, which also includes four museums. It was completed in 1735 and was originally the Imperial Library of the Habsburgs.
Admont Abbey library, Admont, Austria
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Part of the oldest-surviving Benedictine monastery in Styria, this Baroque-style library holds approximately 70,000 books – the largest monastic collection in the world.
Château de Chantilly library, Chantilly, France
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Two buildings comprise the Château de Chantilly: the Grand Château and the Petit Château. The latter, built in the middle of the 16th century, is home to a charming library with thousands of manuscripts and printed volumes.
Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China
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Although the new Tianjin Binhai Library covers an impressive 33,700 square metres, it's the rippled, five-storey-high atrium that captures the imagination of visitors. Taken from conception to completion in just three years by Dutch design firm MVRDV, the soaring ceiling of the atrium is cleverly shaped like an eye socket around a central, spherical auditorium forming the 'pupil' of the space. Opened in November 2017, the bookshelves of the atrium also do double-duty as seemingly endless bench seats, inviting visitors to stay and enjoy the abundance of tomes.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., United States
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After being established in 1800, the Library of Congress was destroyed by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812. Only one book survived and president Thomas Jefferson sold his personal collection to the library to replace the lost volumes. In 1897, the collection moved from the Capitol Building to a new building bearing Jefferson’s name.
Stuttgart City Library, Stuttgart, Germany
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This ultra-modern library is nine storeys high and appears to be a giant solitary cube in Mailänder Platz. Conceived by Yi Architects, it has an imposing design that rises up around an open central space.
Duke Humfrey's Library at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
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Although originally a library, Duke Humfrey’s is now a reading room attached to the Bodleian Library, which contains more than 12 million items of printed material. The oldest section of Duke Humfrey’s was built in 1487 with the addition of the Arts End in 1612 and the Selden End in 1637.
Palace of Mafra library, Mafra, Portugal
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The monumental Palace of Mafra occupies more than 40,000 square metres of space and one of the most sumptuous 18th-century palaces in Europe. At 88 metres long, the second-floor library is the largest room in the palace. It holds almost 40,000 rare books that are protected from silverfish by resident homing bats.
Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Books line the walls from floor to ceiling at this Rio institution, the largest collection of Portuguese-language works outside of Portugal. Containing almost 400,000 rare titles and manuscripts, the library, established in 1822, continues to add new volumes to its collection every year. Image credit: Matthieu Bertrand Struck (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)
Liyuan Library, Jiaojiehe, China
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The work of award-winning architect Li Xiaodong, this innovative library was intended not only to serve the small local community, but to attract day-trippers from Beijing. The branches covering the glass structure help it to blend in with the natural landscape. Inside, there are no chairs or desks; instead there are raised platforms where readers can lounge with their reading materials. Image credit: Forgemind ArchiMedia (CC-BY-2.0)
La Trobe Reading Room, Melbourne, Australia
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Work on the Domed Reading Room began in 1909 to celebrate the State Library of Victoria’s jubilee. This reading room was reopened in 2003 after years of refurbishment, having been renamed the La Trobe Reading Room. Image credit: OZinOH (CC-BY-NC-2.0)
The New York Public Library, New York, United States
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Established in 1911, this Beaux-Arts building is the most recognised among the city’s public libraries. The two familiar lions have guarded its entrance since it opened and were named Patience and Fortitude in the 1930s.
The Richelieu-Louvois Library, Paris, France
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The Richelieu-Louvois Library lies in the heart of Paris just north of Le Palais Royal and includes the collections of Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and the École nationale des Chartes. Image credit: Vincent Desjardins (CC-BY-2.0)
The George Peabody Library, Baltimore, United States
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Designed by renowned Baltimore architect Edmund G Lind, the Peabody Library – with striking architectural interiors – opened in 1878. It is home to more than 300,000 titles, with the majority dating back to 18th, 19th and early-20th centuries.
State Library of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
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The Mortlock Wing of the State Library of South Australia was opened in 1884. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful Victorian library interiors in the country and is capped with a vaulted glass roof to let in natural light. Image credit: Wes Eggins Images (CC-BY-NC-2.0)
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka, Japan
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Dedicated to the prolific Japanese writer, Ryōtarō Shiba, this museum is actually an Ando Tadao-designed library that was built adjacent to Shiba’s former home (he died in 1996). It was opened in 2001 and its central feature is an 11-metre-high bookshelf containing his personal collection of 20,000 books. Image credit: Jonas-Aarre-Sommarset
Rijksmuseum Research Library, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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As part of the Rijksmuseum, this library is the largest resource for public art research in the country. It’s home to a comprehensive collection of books covering art history from medieval times through to the early 20th century.
Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland
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This library is housed in a World Heritage-listed Carolingian-era complex. It has about 160,000 books and one of the most comprehensive collections of medieval tomes.
Sainte-Geneviève Library, Paris, France
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Built opposite the Pantheon in Paris, the Sainte-Geneviève Library was designed by architect Henri Labrouste and completed in 1850. The entire upper floor is actually a reading room with an imposing double-vaulted ceiling supported by iron arches.
The John Rylands Library, Manchester, England
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Built by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands, this Victorian neo-Gothic-style library was opened to the public in 1900. Enriqueta spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to obtain rare and important volumes from prominent private collectors.
Strahov Monastery Library, Prague, Czech Republic
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The Czech Republic’s largest monastic library has two baroque halls and is more than 800 years old. The newer Philosophy Hall has an immense fresco by Franz Maulbertsch and the Theology Hall has an ornate stucco-work ceiling. Combined, they contain more than 130,000 texts.
Library of Schussenried Abbey, Schussenried, Germany
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The most remarkable and well-known feature of this German monastery, founded in 1183, is the grand baroque library. The rich decoration of the interior includes a fresco, dating back to 1757, by Franz Georg Hermann.
The Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
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Trinity College, along with its library, was founded in 1592 and acquired its most prized manuscript in 1661 – the Book of Kells, a lavishly illustrated tome of the New Testament in Latin. It’s the largest library in Ireland; the Long Room alone houses 200,000 books.
Maison de la Littérature, Quebec City, Canada
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This repurposed neo-Gothic church was originally the Wesley Temple, built in 1848. A modern all-white refurbishment, undertaken in 2015, transformed it into a library, small café and performance space.
Wiblingen Abbey Library, Ulm, Germany
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Starting life as a Benedictine abbey in 1093, Wiblingen has also been used as barracks and is now part of the University of Ulm. The library building was added in 1744 in the north wing of the abbey. Along with the church and museum, it is the only space open to the public. Image credit: Barnyz (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)