Saturday, April 16, 2011

Libraries 2: Strahov library, Prague

Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, was founded in 1149.  It has two libraries, the Philosophical Hall and the Theological Hall.

The Philosophical Hall seems to have a lot in common with showpiece libraries around the world: ornate balconies, vintage books and a painted ceiling.  But distinguishing this library is the existence of a full panorama photo in all dimensions that has been created of it.  Stitched together from thousands of high resolution photos, it claims to be the current "largest indoor photo in the world".

You can view and navigate it in full here.  It is wonderful to be able to pan all through this vista, and zoom to closeups of the books (yes, you can read the titles of quite a few of them).  In fact, most of the shelves seem to hold two rows of books, one in front of another, so there's possibly twice as many books here as it seems.  How to build up a large number of impressive-looking books: either get them custom bound, as Vanderbilt often did, or acquire numerous sets of books.

Some of the titles I saw here include a set of the complete works of Goethe, and a number of sets of history books on various countries, such as "Theiner Monumenta Historica" sets for Poland, Russia, Hungary, etc.   There's more than immediately meets the eye, too.  If you look closely, you'll see that books are frequently shelved

Libraries are built up, expanded over time.  Yet like this one, many libraries become mausoleums of artifacts, rather than breathing, functional communicators of knowledge and wisdom.  Inevitable in a sense, because paradoxically books become both more valuable over time, and for the most part less useful.  This library has, in fact, been transformed into a museum.  It would be comforting to think the Strahov libraries could still be used for academic research, but it rather looks like such a use would be discouraged.

Coming up: another display library, but of a very different type.  What would you collect if you had more money than you knew what to do with?


bazza said...

Wow! I've looked at everything from the brush work and cracks in the ceiling to the magnificent floor. It's almost like being there - what an experience Stephen.
Have you got a lending ticket?
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

S Simmonds said...

I doubt they'd let anyone even touch those books...

Nice to look at, hey? Much as I'd like to think this is the way of the future, it still takes _days_ to do this scene with current technology.

Bit by bit, the world is getting smaller.