If there’s one thing we love more than a bookstore, it’s a library. Stepping inside a library is like entering a world of pure imagination (and all it costs is, well, nothing). The first libraries date back to Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. The Greeks are described as some of the first voracious readers, credited with arranging the first private libraries. Strabo, an ancient Athenian geographer, claimed the intellectual Aristotle “was the first to have put together a collection of books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library.” With such an overwhelming amount of history concerning the first libraries, we knew there must be some uniquely magnificent libraries around the world, storing one-of-a-kind items and historical artifacts. That’s why we created a list of five must-see libraries—perhaps an idea for a summer adventure, bookworms!
Built in the Middle Ages, the Bodleian Library is located at the University of Oxford and is one of the oldest in all of Europe. Some of the special items housed at “The Bod” are the Magna Carta, a rare Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s first folio, and a special collection of letters written by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose wife Mary wrote Frankenstein.
Known as the world’s largest monastery library in the world, the Library of Admont Abbey is truly breathtaking. Everything about it is artistic, from its architecture to its artifacts. It was built in the mid-to-late 1700s and houses 70,000 volumes. The library is open to the public.
Located in the heart of New York City, the library was founded in 1895. The NYPL is recognized as America’s largest public library system. Its most prized treasures include: Columbus’ 1493 letter announcing the discovery of the New World, a George Washington letter, as well as a handwritten score of “Lover Man” by John Coltrane.
Established in 2002 as a nod to its ancient predecessor, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is more than just a library. It’s comprised of four unique museum-like libraries, including Antiquities and Manuscripts. The Antiquities collection houses 1,316 artifacts spanning ancient Egyptian history, while the Manuscript collection boasts more than 6,000 rare books, maps, and documents.
When in Rome, don’t miss an opportunity to see the Vatican Library. Only scholars are admitted, so the public will need to purchase tickets for a guided tour. If you do, there’s a chance you’ll see Galileo’s trial signature, St. Peter’s letters, and the oldest known Bible in existence.