My library.

Keeping with the theme of books and aesthetics, let's judge a book by it's cover (I had to). When discussing the place of the book in the digital age, one begins to either sound ancient or seem eccentric. I'm okay with that. I digress, I am a techno-phobe; let's just ignore the fact that I'm blogging from an electronic device. Besides paper-back & hardback books are just too pretty to look at; which brings me to the point of this post: Book art. Here are a few of the great ones (I own)...

The penguin classics edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books. Beautiful art deco-themed hardbacks, a must-have in any self-declared book collectors' library. Re-issued to mark the 70th anniversary of his death, the set includes new issues of Tender is the Night, The Beautiful and The Damned, The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, The Last Tycoon and Flappers and Philosophers.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

It's like the title and the cover art were just destined to be. It's simple and self-explanatory.

The Travels of Ibn Battutah by Tim Mackintosh-Smith & Saladin: Hero of Islam by Geoffrey Hindley

Some of the most epic stories set in some of the most epic times of human history and I love how that's portrayed in these persian muraqqa-esque inspired illustrations. Appropriately just if you ask me.

The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld, Nelson Mandela: A Biography by Martin Meredith & The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Well... who wouldn't like their face on a 200+ page written account of themselves?

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Speigelman

A pure contour line drawing of a cat centered on a swastika convieniently positioned behind two fear-ridden mice overall reminiscent of a World War II poster. Not sold yet? How about the subtitle - "My father bleeds history"? No? But...but the bigger mouse is wearing a trench coat for God's sake!

Marvel & DC

& that's just the tip of the iceberg. Granted I do not currently own these valuable copies above but they are -- the top favorites. There's hundreds and thousands more to choose from like 'The Amazing Spiderman #539', 'Detective Comics #408', 'Avengers #76' and 'Batman #612' to name a few.

Honourable mention:

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen

Not necessarily a book I'd recommend you acquire to 'read' (hit or miss here) but... and it's a big but, the book cover deserves all merit. The book relays a fractured fairytale by Serena Valentino, a version of the classic story that has remained untold until now. Fairly simplistic and straight-forward, we have the Evil Queen on the dust jacket but then this comes off to reveal *drumroll* the Hag on the hardcover. [IN-GENIOUS]

Books by Derek Birdsall

A master of his craft, Birdsall is one of the most distinguished graphic designers in Britain today. His work is disarmingly simple and elegant. He's designed magazine covers, calendars, posters and book jackets for Penguin and Monty Python. He excercises the finesse of typography and how words should be designed to be read; the balance between image and type; how to move images and type around a given area; the value of empty space and quietness. All in all, a legend.


Now...I leave you with this:

Movie Recommendations



Seeing as we've all been probably frequenting our respective local libraries (or more accurately 'moved in') due to exam season, this post felt appropriate. An ode to some the finest book havens -

Abbey Library St. Gallen, Switzerland

The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is the oldest library in Switzerland and holds about 160,000 volumes. The library was founded by Saint Othmar, who founded the Abbey of St. Gall in 719. This is one of the oldest monastery libraries in the world, and holds manuscripts from as far back as the 8th century. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the library a World Heritage site in 1983, calling it a “a perfect example of a great Carolingian monastery”.

Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Fits over 350,000 volumes in just one room. The interior of the room is four stories tall to allow for maximum shelf space, and also houses a small collection of sculptures, paintings, and coins.

National Library of St Mark's, Venice, Italy

The National Library of St Mark's is a library and Renaissance building in Venice, northern Italy; it is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. The library is named after St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.

The library was provided with a building designed by Jacopo Sansovino.

Wiblingen Monastery Library, Ulm, Germany

The Wiblingen Monastery was founded in 1093, and remodeled in the Baroque style in the 18th century. The Library is notable to art historians because of it’s rich ornamentation and beautiful fresco ceiling. Before entering the Library visitors see the inscription “In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae” which means “In which are stored all treasures of knowledge and science”, a perfect quote for any library.

José Vasconcelos Library – Mexico City, Mexico

The José Vasconcelos Library, located in Mexico City is phenomenal. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox called it one of the most advanced constructions of the 21st century. The library cost nearly $100 million to build, and was was the largest infrastructure investment for the Fox administration that spanned 2000-2006. The shelving of the library is visually impressive and complemented by several incredible sculptures including one by artist Gabriel Orozco called Ballena that is a painted genuine whale skeleton.

Admont Abbey Library – Austria

The Admont Library's over 200,000 books and manuscripts makes it the largest monastery library in the world. Most of its works are theological -- including a giant 11th-century Bible -- but it also contains many important scientific and historical volumes.

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – Toronto, Canada

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book library is the largest rare book collection in Canada. The library is affiliated with the University of Toronto. The collection includes numerous notable works, including Newton’s Principia (1687), Shakespeare’s First Folio, the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), and a Babylonian cueniform tablet that dates to 1789 BC. The library also contains a large and notable collection donated by a man named Robert S. Kenny, who was a Communist Party of Canada member. The collection is made up of over 25,000 items dealing with labor movements worldwide, with a particular emphasis on Canada.

Library at El Real Monasterio de El Escorial – Madrid, Spain

The library contains close to 45,000 documents from the 15th and 16th centuries. It was designated a Historic-Artistic site in 1971 and received the World Heritage designation in 1984. The building was designed by Juan de Herrera and gave rise to an architectural style known as Herrerian.

The Trinity College Library, aka “The Long Room,” Dublin, Ireland

The Library of Trinity College is the largest research library in Ireland. As a result of its historic standing, Trinity College Library Dublin is a legal deposit library (as per Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003) for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and has a similar standing in Irish law. The College is therefore legally entitled to a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland and consequently receives over 100,000 new items every year. The Library contains circa five million books, including 30,000 current serials and significant collections of manuscripts, maps, and printed music.

Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Marilyn sez, "El Ateneo Grand Splendid in downtown Buenos Aires is a spectacular bookstore that retains all the glamour of its former life as a 1920s movie palace, with a original balconies, painted ceiling, ornate carvings and crimson stage curtains.

Melk Monastery Library, Melk, Austria

The Melk Abbey was founded in 1089, and shortly thereafter a school was founded which led to the library’s formation in the 12th century. The Melk Library quickly became one of the largest manuscript holders in the world, and was also majorly involved in the production of manuscripts. The Library features a high ceiling adorned with beautiful frescos painted by Paul Troger. Today the Library is still renowned for its collection of medieval manuscripts and also has a prominent collection of musical manuscripts.

National Library of Finland, Helsinki

The National Library is responsible for the preservation of the published cultural heritage and accumulates collections of literature in the field of the liberal arts in particular. The library is divided into two principal buildings. The Library's main building was designed by architect C.L. Engel 1836 and was built in 1840-45.[contradiction] The annex is called the Rotunda and was built in 1902-06 by architect Gustaf Nyström

The University Library's main building is one of the best known examples of the late 19th century Empire style in Finland and an important example of the European official library buildings of its time.

Queen’s College Library, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

Queen’s has one of the best-stocked college libraries in Oxford, with around 50,000 volumes in the current lending collection. The Upper Library is considered one of the finest rooms in Oxford and has been a focal point for the College ever since its construction at the end of the seventeenth century. Once thought to have been built by Christopher Wren because of its similarity with the Wren library at Trinity College Cambridge, the actual architect of the Library remains a mystery. Dean Aldrich of Christ Church is a likely candidate, as is Timothy Halton, the Provost of Queen’s at the time the Library was built. The Upper Library remains as a reading room for students and is virtually unique in this respect in the University.

The College has one of the largest and most diverse collections of rare books in Oxford with around 100,000 volumes in the antiquarian collection.

Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK

The Wren Library was completed in 1695 under the Mastership of Isaac Barrow, who persuaded his friend Sir Christopher Wren to design it. The building work was carried out under the supervision of a local master mason, Robert Grumbold, who chose exterior stone with a pinkish tinge from a quarry in Rutland; the stone catches the evening sun quite beautifully.

The Library has exquisite classical proportions and maximises space and light having bookcases below window level. The first floor is decorated with limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons and furnished with a series of Roubiliac marble busts of College alumni, including naturalist John Ray and his friend Francis Willoughby, Richard Bentley, Francis Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton.

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

This divine bookstore, opened in 1906, contains what we consider to be the ultimate definition of a stairway to heaven designed by architect Xavier Esteves. The façade is a beautiful example of neo-gothic design, with just a hint of art nouveau. Step inside, and you have a wonderland of stunning design, intricate decoration and volumes of books. From floor to ceiling ornate painted plaster provides a rich texture. Pillars are decorated with bronze bas-reliefs of Portuguese literature figures. Glass enclosed bookcases arch at the top.

Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, commonly known as Widener Library, is the primary building of the library system ofHarvard University. Located on the south side of Harvard Yard directly across from Memorial Church, Widener serves as the centerpiece of the 15.6 million-volume Harvard University Library system, the largest university library system in the world

Widener Library, which opened with a solemn ceremony on June 24, 1915, commemorates Harry Elkins Widener (born January 3, 1885 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania), a 1907 Harvard graduate, who was a book collector and victim of the Titanic disaster. His mother, Eleanor Elkins, made a $3.5 million donation to Harvard University to build a library named after him. The library was designed by Horace Trumbauer & Associates, the architect of many private houses for the intertwined Elkins and Widener families of Philadelphia including the renowned Lynnewood Hall. The Associate responsible for designing Widener Library was the chief designer of the firm, architectJulian F. Abele, the first major African American architect.

La Sorbonne Reading Room, Paris, France

This inter-academic library has collections representing 50 km of shelves, 3500 numbers of manuscripts, 534 incunables, 100.000 volumes printed before 1801, 300.000 volumes of the XIXth century, 2.040.000 works of the XXth century, 6000 alive subscriptions, 180.000 theses. The oldest document preserved dates of XIth century.

The University of Coimbra General Library, Coimbra, Portugal

Once referred to as “The House of the Bookshop” Coimbra University’s library is one of the top five libraries in the world. Now called Biblioteca Joanina, this Baroque library was built between 1717 and 1728, during the reign of King João V of Portugal. The library is named after King João V and his coat of arms is over the front door.

Nowadays Biblioteca Joanina is a Portuguese National Monument and one of the University’s main tourist attractions. Its collection of over 200,000 books is of priceless value, both historically and at a monetary level.
Inside the library, there are three great rooms divided by ornate arches. The rooms, with highly decorated ceilings, are rich in gilt and exotic wood and the walls are covered by two-storied shelves of books.

Reminds me of the beasts' library...

Just me?

Moving on...

Powell library, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

Powell Library is UCLA’s most iconic and main undergraduate library. Completed in 1929, Powell Library was one of the four original buildings on the university’s campus.

Powell is named after Lawrence Clark Powell, University Librarian from 1944 to 1961 and Dean of the Graduate School of Library Service from 1960 to 1966. Powell was designed by architect George W. Kelham and follows a Romanesque Revival seen in Moorish touches to the basic design. The entrance contains several mosaics, including one book with the phrase “Haec studia adulescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant," which loosely translates to "studying in youth sustains delight into old age.

University of Salamanca Library, Smanca, Spain

Salamanca University has one of the most important and beautiful university libraries in Spain. In the main library located in the historical centre more than 160.000 volumes can be found. There are also important manuscripts and incunables (the first type of book to be printed after the invention of the printing press and up until before 1501) from between the XIth and XIVth centuries and about 40.000 books edited between the XVIth and XVIIIth centuries. The library also has a famous ceiling painting known as ¨El Cielo de Salamanca¨.

Dr. Seuss - Oh the Places You'll Go.

Don't be fooled by the title of this seriocomic ode to success; it's not 'Climb Every Mountain,' kid version. All journeys face perils, whether from indecision, from loneliness, or worst of all, from too much waiting.

Seuss' message is simple but never sappy: life may be a 'Great Balancing Act,' but through it all 'There's fun to be done.'

Kazu Sano

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Antoni Gaudi's Barcelona

Antoni Gaudi was a 20th century Spanish architect. A lot of his work borders on the fantasy realm. Gaudi made it possible for the architects of today to think beyond straight lines by embracing irregularity displaying botanical and geological forms in majority of his buildings.

Probably his most famous creation - La Familia Sagrada, Barcelona, Spain. 1882. This basilica won't even be finished until 2026. That will be 144 years in the making.

His designs made illusion to nature, the ocean - waves - sand & rocky cliffs. His work seems to be in constant motion.

The freedom of expression and form of architecture today owes itself in no small measure to Antonio Gaudi.