With most libraries today slowly cataloging every manuscript and film on file electronically, it can be easy to forget just how immense the physical presence of a library can be. Closed stack collections of libraries hold dear collections of rare books both modern and from antiquity.
Try to comprehend the thousands of years of knowledge represented by the 4 most amazing closed stack libraries in the world. Each of these libraries have material dating back at least as far as 1500 AD and contain at least 700,000 volumes. Only those libraries with the oldest and most unique material made the cut.
4. National Library of Australia
The National Library of Australia houses over 10-million resources, including not only written material but also artwork, sheet music, recorded oral histories and even the largest collection of Asian-language media in the Southern Hemisphere. The closed stacks feature about 75,000 materials. Included are microforms of pre-1800s German, French, English and Russian books and an impressive collection of European drama, theological texts and linguistic histories.
3. Bibliothèque nationale de France (The National Library of France)
The National Library of France as an institution is nearly seven-hundred years old. Though it was 1792 before the National Library as we know it was established, Charles V instituted the first national manuscript collections in 1368. Today’s library houses over 30-million items. The closed stacks boast not only priceless pieces of French literature but about 5,000 Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts include pieces of the New Testament written on parchment, a 1148 biography of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I and works from as early as 60 BC from the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus.
2. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto, Canada is not its books at all. The unique modern architecture could have been drawn from a movie set. Six floors of shelves contain Canada’s largest collection of publicly available rare books. For being one of the smallest libraries on this list, the Thomas Fisher library has a unique selection of materials. Darwin’s proof copy of “On the Origin of Species”, a selection of 17th century etchings by Wenceslaus Hollar and Shakespeare’s “First Folio” are modern compared to the 245 BC Egyptian papyrus fragments or the cuneiform table from UR, cira 1798 BC.
1.The Library of Congress
Arguably the most impressive library in the world, the Library of Congress in the United States houses almost 152-million manuscripts, pieces of media and everything in between. Gorgeous 19th century architecture forms the sanctum in which the largest library in the world is held. The library’s collection covers 470 languages, and some 22,000 new items are added to the library’s stacks daily.
700,000 items make up the library’s rare book collection. Over 5,000 pieces of incunabula, or books printed before the year 1500, are included in the collection. The oldest piece of written material in the collection, a cuneiform tablet, is from 2064 BC. It also features one of three perfect copies of the Gutenburg Bible, a Buddhist sutra that is one of the oldest examples of printing in the world and 100 rare children’s books.
Denise Harper is a school librarian and guest author at www.besteducationdegrees.com, a site with guides to top-rated education degree programs online.