February 16, 2010

Halls Of Books.

What can be more timeless, than the written word? What can fuel our imagination, what can inspire us, educate us, comfort us, relax us and be our true companion more powerfully than a book?

I have always loved books, as long as I can remember. Second to drawing, submerging myself in a book was a wonderful timescape for me since childhood. I frequented the libraries in every city I lived in and I recall with amusement today, how I used to bribe my little sister with a bag of potato chips (she was crazy about them!), to make her come with me to the library, when I was about nine years old.
When we moved to Sweden, I recall the library being my very best friend. The books helped me to learn a foreign language and to become familiar with the spoken word in my new country.

The other day I thought about the libraries of the world. There must be so many, but which are the the absolutely most astounding? Curious Expeditions lists twenty most beautiful ones. Among these is the Strahov Monastery Library in Prague, truly one of a kind.

Unfortunately, closed to the public today, one can still visit the monastery itself and stand in the entrance to the library halls, casting a glance at the vastness of space filled with ancient script. Everything takes ones breath away, not just the books, but the rooms themselves. Such as the the Theological Hall, with its intricate and beautifully painted baroque vaulted ceiling. My father recalls, that shortly after the velvet revolution, the library was freely accessible, and he marveled over the opulence of the rooms.
I have visited the library only once, but the impression is everlasting.

The Strahov Monastery was founded in 1140 by bishop Jindrich Zdik and Prince Vladislav II. Strahov can translate into something similar to Guarded. This name comes most likely from the fact that the monastery was build close to a guarded road in the vicinity of the Prague Castle. The library houses within its walls priceless scripts. Over the course of centuries, the monks inhabiting the monastery collected and kept one of the world's most beautifully preserved collections of philosophical and theological texts, including illuminated manuscripts and first editions. The collections consist of about 200 000 old prints (mostly from the period between the 16th through 18th century), around 3000 manuscripts and 1500 first prints. One of the most precious items is the Strahov Evangeliary from the 9th century. The library displays two opulently decorated halls: the Theological Hall and the Philosophical Hall.

Today, the monastery itself is still a home to Premonstratensian monks, a scholarly order closely related to the Jesuits.

31 comments :

GYPSYWOMAN said...

my brother and sister and i grew up in libraries, too, loving books - belonged to summer book reading clubs every year - had our own contests to see who could read the most - books were our friends, our companions - they went everywhere with us and took us everywhere inside there covers - the beginning with no end - books and my love of them! great post! have a glorious day, lady! and thanks so much for dropping by my place!

Ocean Girl said...

As a child I love books. They offer me windows into the dream world.

As an adult, I read books of my interest at the time. Now I am lucky to be able to find book that could keep interested to the last page.

Nothing can beat cuddling with a good book, it is just good books to me, are hard to come by now.

The library looks beautiful.

Susan Deborah said...

Dear Zuzana:

I have always dreamt of working in a place where there are a lot of books. The libraries in your post look so very inviting that they are almost like a tempting seductress.

Zuzana, you have a way with written words and your posts are no less than an encyclopaedia with valuable information.

I am sure you will be a proud blogger as you skim the pages of your posts.

Joy always and more lovely posts for readers as me,

Susan

GrandmaK said...

Librarians have the best jobs...The library was a great place to go and do research for a paper. To have all that access to the word placed on paper! This was a wonderful post. Have a grand day! Cathy

Nessa said...

To me, heaven would have a library like that in one of its rooms. Beautiful.

Brian Miller said...

what an intriguing post...it weaves together two things...my love for books...have a pile next to the bed and boxes all over in closets....and the monastic life which intrigues me...wonderful.

Rebecca said...

Oh, this is such a wonderful post.....

I adore libraries, especially ones that stimulate the visual senses like this. as well as the intellectual.

Some years ago, I researched the Lindisfarne Gospels for an essay. What an amazing process to create Illuminated Manuscripts... so fascinating...

Cottage Garden said...

I am an avid library goer too and have been since childhood. Recently our local library closed for refurbishment for a whole year and I really miss it!

The monastery in Prague looks beautiful and makes a very fitting library. I love historical libraries like this one. A visit to the British Library in London is a treat too - full of the most wonderful old books and manuscripts.

There is nothing quite like escaping into the pages of a good book!

Jeanne x

Claus said...

The things those halls must have been witness to! I enjoy trying to picture these old places back in ancient times...so wonderful they have lasted all this time!!

There is little care for public libraries in Guatemala, sadly. Funding is a real issue, and it seems that there are other more important problems to solve, such as hunger. I was able, though, to have full access to the University's Library when I was a student. it was the most glorious place!, and liked to get in just because :-) Indeed, books are a jewel. Great post Zuzana!!
have a great Tuesday.
*hugs*

Myussop said...

Wow! Those libraries are awesome. I've always been a library goer. I find immersing myself in the library a worthwhile 'occupation' anytime.Since childhood they have been my place for intellectual stimulation and scholarship and continue to this day. How else could I have stood on the shoulders of giants? Have a pleasant day.

Hilary said...

What an incredibly beautiful building that is. I could get lost there.

sprinkles said...

I love books too! It's a great way to go to another world for a little while and not have to face all the things that worry or upset me in my life.

There is a library just a few blocks from my house but I'm not a member, even though it would be free to me. I don't know why I haven't signed up. I think maybe because the books that I love I wouldn't want to have to give back.

I have a meeting at our local library tonight actually. It's nothing to do with the library itself, our meeting is just being held there. It's a monthly meeting. I won't have time to get there early today as I have to pick a friend up from the airport and rush her back to town just before so maybe next time I'll think about going early and getting signed up.

Every year I go on a local Home Tour. This past year I went to one home that had a HUGE room they called the library. The walls are full of books from floor to ceiling. There is a spiral staircase that takes you upstairs to even more books! That staircase was off limits to the public that day but I could see that there were even more books up there. I so wanted to sneak up and see what kinds of books were there!!!

Lynne said...

Libraries are fantastic places. I used to enjoy going to my local one in Sweden. They had a great selection of English written novels. But I also borrowed Swedish craft and cookery books.

Rosezilla said...

Absolutely stunning! Couldn't you just live there?

steviewren said...

How I would love to see some of those 1500 prints and get a glimpse of the illuminated manuscripts. The library is beautiful as is the monastery it's self.

I loved going to my local library as a child. They had a rule that a child could only check out three books at a time...which I thought was stupid.

Donna said...

I've always loved books and libraries too.

What a beautiful building that is...something I'd love to visit.

LadyCat said...

The Monastery Library is breathtaking. I love the scent of libraries...all those yummy books. My dream job would be to own an old book shop...

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I love books too! The artist Mary Engelbreit designed two wonderful posters to promote literacy--aimed towards children. One depicted a large open book with a child falling and said: "Books fall open-You fall in"! I love that image and the concept of falling in a well-told story is a wonderful one. I often "escaped" boredom and lonliness as a child by getting lost in a book. I still do sometimes.

jeannette stgermain said...

What a beautiful library -books and art in the same place...I could spend hours there!
If the library I worked at (my first job) had looked like this, I'm sure I would have stayed longer!

Eternally Distracted said...

I really need to read more... I used to love libraries as a kid but haven't been to one for years. Must try harder!

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Great post Zuzana. I would love to spend a year in that library. Libraries are sacred treasuries of human knowledge, dreams, secrets, passions, foibles, and mysteries. I grew up frequenting the Pasadena Libraries, which were, though not as elegant as this one in Prague, still beautiful sanctuaries and places of peace and inspiration.

tony said...

If Your Ever In Manchester Can I suggest A Visit To The John Rylands Library.
http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/specialcollections/"> The John Rylands Library.
here=
http://zimnoch.smugmug.com/Dropbox/Manchester-30th-October-2008/6413673_bheTp
are a few (poor Quality) photos I took in & around it.Well Worth a Look.(The potato crisps in Manchester are rather good too!!!!!!)

Keera Ann Fox said...

I remember standing in the middle of Trinity College's library in Dublin. Books stood in shelves reaching up to a vaulted ceiling three stories above me. I felt the same awe standing there as I do standing under the stars at night, thinking of all the knowledge, all the thoughts, all the dreams contained in print.

This quote from my page-a-day calendar describes what I mean perfectly:

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves." Gilbert Highet

Keera Ann Fox said...

PS: I thought you might like that quote, too. :-)

Michael Manning said...

This was especially fascinating, given the absence of imagination in many modern library designs today. Prague sounds very interesting! :)

Jill said...

What a wonderful and educational post Zuzana. Such wonderful history and beauty.

Hmmm, you learning a new language in Sweden makes me wonder...how many languages DO you speak?

Protege said...

Gypsywoman, Ocean Girl, Susan, Cathy, Nessa, Brian, Rebecca, Jeanne, Claudia, Mahmud, Hilary, sprinkles, Lynne, Rosezilla, Stevie, Donna, LadyCat, C&V, jeannette, ED, Richard, tony, Keera, Michael and Jill – I knew that all of you surely love books! How can you not when all of you love to write.
I will forever be fascinated by books and the ancient libraries are insights into history in such a versatile way.

Thank you all so much for stopping by, your comments are always a joy to read and your visits always make my day.

Xoxo
Zuzana

PS: To answer Jill’s question; I speak many languages. But none perfectly! So at times I feel like I really can not claim to speak any.;)

Shelly's Style Shop said...

Great post! I love books too! I haven't had much time lately to actually sit down and read one, but once I get started I can't stop.

My oldest daughter loves books. She reads all the time. When she finds a favorite she will read 4..5...or 6 times. I am glad she loves to read. I told her that is one way she will learn a lot. I am trying to get my other two children interested in reading. My son not so much...lol. My youngest daughter is starting to enjoy it.

Thanks for sharing.

xoxo, Shelly

gaelikaa said...

I love books too. Have you ever visited Marsh's Library in Dublin? Well worth it...

young-ecletic-encounters said...

Wow what a wonderful library. This looks like the kind of library where a real book lover walks in breathes in deeply(there is no other smell quite like the smell of old books) and stares in amazement. My daughter would love it, one of her favorite things to do is to go to the library archives at the university she attends and do research using the old books there. She has used some that are hundreds of years old and loves it. The library at her university is one of the best in the country beating out universities like Harvard and Yale.
I go to the local library all the time and have always enjoyed the local libraries wherever I've lived. Georgia has now linked by computer most of the libraries in the state so you can order any book from any library and then have it delivered to your local library. How cool is that! And I can look through the books and order from home.

Protege said...

Shelly, Maria and YEE, thank you so much for your lovely comments. Yes indeed, books are simply the most amazing objects of print and pictures.
xoxo
Zuzana