Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Elegant Library Company of Philadelphia

Almost the entire August issue of The Magazine Antiques is about The Library Company of Philadelphia, the mothership of US libraries, which is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year. Alas, the more than fifty pages of articles are not online, and their pictures are copyrighted so we can't just show you a couple of them. But track down the magazine when you are in the library, if you are interested in seeing the history and collections detailed with beautifully illustrated artifacts.

Our favorite: a box with a (barely recognizable) image of a lion, a slot for a mouth. "Gentlemen are requested To deposite in the Lion's Mouth the TITLES of such BOOKS As they may wish to have IMPORTED", it reads. (We do it with a blue postcard, in exactly the same spirit. You ask for it, we get it.)

We have a couple of very nice books about the history of libraries. Matthew Battles' Library : an unquiet history is extremely readable. He has some material on the early history of libraries in the US. Though Luciano Canfora's The vanished library, about Alexandria, is not nearly so smooth, if you love libraries you may always have wanted to learn more about the library at Alexandria; this book will satisfy that wish. The book on the bookshelf by Henry Petroski is not explicitly focused on the history of libraries, but sure has a lot to say on the subject.

cover of bookcover of bookcover of book

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