Best Libraries In The World

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Best Libraries In The World

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.” Jose Luis Borges

Libraries are not just stern places where loud conversations – even accidentally – are greeted with cut-throat looks from the opposite side of the reading table. Libraries are full of stories and anecdotes waiting to be uncovered. Their architecture and interiors are often unexpected and sometimes even astonishing.

 National Library, Beijing, China

The National Library of China is the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world  What makes it even more special? Its collection of cultural and historical literature is vast with more than 24 million books. If you’re not after literature or a place to read, then its collection of manuscripts and inscriptions may tempt you. Among its collections are manuscripts from Song, Shang, and Ming dynasties, stone tablets known as Xiping Stone Classics, tortoise shell inscriptions, and many ancient Chinese writings.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland. Built between 1712 and 1732 the Old Library is the University’s earliest surviving building. The library houses Ireland’s National Treasure which is the Book Of Kells sacred manuscript created by Celtic Monks in about 800 AD which features the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is decorated with metallic gold Celtic style writing, symbols and stunning artwork. Walking through the doors of the Long Room is suddenly overwhelming. IT is a 65 meter long gallery housing about 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books under a jaw-dropping barrel-vaulted ceiling.The weather being famously unpredictable in Dublin makes the library is a great place to stay dry.

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is Brazil’s most important library, a Neoclassical treasure trove chronicling the country’s history in more than nine million items. A highlight is the Teresa Cristina Maria collection: a 22,000-strong photo series, depicting key Brazilian events and notables. 

Joanine Library at University Of Coimbre, Coimbre, Portugal

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished university. The Baroque library was built between 1717 – 1728 and houses about 40,000 books which are – in part – protected by bats (bats eat moths). It is really impressive  The library is a Portuguese National Monument and is one of the oldest of the university.

Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, Paris, France

Located opposite the Pantheon is the historic public library Sainte Genevieve. The steps have become somewhat famous after Woody Allen chose this location for his film Midnight In Paris.The vast collection of the Abbey  Saint Genevieve was in need of a home and it took seven years of construction in 1839 by architect Henri Labrouste. The public university library now holds around two million books and documents and the magnificent cast iron ceiling of the two story reading room is breathtaking.

National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic

The National Library of the Czech Republic is part of the Clementinum, a massive complex of historical buildings that also holds the Astronomical Tower (a weather center since 1775) and the Mirror Chapel, a popular setting for classical music concerts. Regularly named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, this Baroque marvel dates back to 1722. this The largest hall of the library is also the most impressive. Featuring a balcony with a highly ornate railing and stairs, the Library Hall is decorated in rich golds, mahogany woods, and ceiling frescoes by Jan Hiebl. The beauty is in the original details: the labels on the bookcases have been there since the 1700s and none of the features (including floors or wood trims) have been replaced since the library’s creation.The Library Hall is also home to some of the oldest books in Europe.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Royal Copenhagen Library known as the Black Diamond juts over the canal. The interior boasts a huge ceiling fresco and canal views. The permanent exhibition, Treasures in The Royal Library, currently includes a Gutenberg bible, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s notes, and Hans Christian Andersen’s diary.

Bibleoteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico

This library was designed by Alberto Kalach and the construction was completed in 2007. Inside, instead of plain white walls and carpet, you’ll see transparent walls, mismatches floors, balconies and pathways, and books, lots and lots of books.

 The Library Of  Alexandria, Alexandria,  Egypt

The ancient library of Alexandria was built by the order of Ptolemy ll in the third century BC. It contained 700,000 books and was the greatest library in the world at that time. This was the first public governmental library in history. Any scholar such as Archimedes who studies in the library of Alexandria had to leave a copy of his writings in the library. This was one of the reasons the library was rich with books, researchers, and studies that were contemporary at the time. There were many theories as to how the library burned -one was that it was Julius Caesar. Centuries later, Hosny Mubarak made an international architectural design competition to build a library on that site.  The prize was sixty thousand American dollars which was won by Snohetta, a Norwegian architectural firm. The oval shape of the library from outside is a symbol of the continuity of life. The library is surrounded by a great wall that was made out of Aswan Granite and it contains writing and inscriptions in 120 languages. The objective of the new library is the same objective of the old library: to act as a public research library and to support the people of the Arab world and the Middle East to retain their old position as scholars and researchers in different fields of science.

NY Public Library, NY, USA

The New York Public Library  which opened in 1911  by combining the collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries with a $2.4 million trust from Samuel J. Tilden that was given to, “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.”It was the largest marble building in the United States and  home to over one million books.The Beaux Artes building is located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd St. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox,  Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Walking In New York With My Mom

Walking In New York With My Mom

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” Rebecca Solnit

I moved in with my mom in my very early twenties because I wanted to save money for traveling. It wasn’t my first choice of places to live but spending summers in Greece was much more appealing to me than paying rent in Manhattan.

Her passion was theatre. There was not a lot of money but she knew every way to get free or discount tickets to the theatre, ballet, symphony and opera in NY.  It was pre – internet and a lot harder to find things out. My mother went out six nights and three matinees a week. Theatres in Manhattan are dark on Monday nights. My mom saw the previews, pre closings, dress rehearsals, hits, flops, shows that never opened and shows that ran now and forever. We called it “her ticket business” though she never made any money from it. Most of the time there were many free tickets which she could not let go to waste. Hours were spent calling people. My mother felt that if she was in possession of these tickets, it was her job to bring joy to as many people as possible and fill up the theatres. I found it very annoying but I was twenty-two and everything that wasn’t about me was annoying.

Sometimes we would go to a matinee together. We would walk from East 18th st to West Broadway somewhere in the forties. Those of you familiar with cross town traffic in NY know that walking is usually faster anyway. It was an opportunity to spend time together and learn to relate to each other as adults.

My mother was legally blind from the time she was seventeen so walking with her was always interesting. We walked up Second Ave passed a small NY park (one square block of green). People were shooting up, selling drugs, smoking pot or exposing themselves. ”Aren’t we lucky to have this beautiful bit of green in the midst of all these tall buildings?” she asks. I tell her what she is missing. She laughs and says “Sometimes it’s good not to see.”

We walk up 23rd st near the School Of Visual Arts where the arty kids are hanging out in interesting street wear and hairdos. They are photographing. drawing, and taking notes. We continue passed the many discount stores that used to be there. We called them yoyo stores (because they sold anything they could sell cheaply – from apples to yoyos.) We see a large group of deaf children. They are signing. My mother sighs. “I feel so sorry for deaf people. They can never hear music.” I said,“Don’t worry about them, they feel sorry for you.” She laughs again and tells me I am a rotten kid.

On Third Avenue a boy is playing the violin on the street. She gives him a dollar .“Thank you so much. I love Mendelssohn’s  Concerto in E major“. He is so pleased that someone knew what he was playing. I was impressed. I have a hard time remembering the names of classical music.  She explained to me that she is now finished with her charity for today.” I put a dollar in my pocket every day and I give it to the first homeless person that asks me. It is my way of helping the homeless in our city”. I wasn’t sure that he was homeless but I did not tell her that.

She stepped off the curb about to cross the street at the red light. I gently hold her back. It always worried me when she would do stuff like that because I don’t know how she got across the street alone. She said that she went with the crowd and was never hit by a car in 91 years so I guess it worked.

My mom was a really good listener. She was my rock who I ran to when I was confused. I talked about whatever problems I was having that week as we walked up to Park Ave. She always knew what the right thing to do was and could sort out my problems and mess of emotions. I stopped to buy a pretzel with mustard from a cart on the street. “If you walk a few more blocks east, there is a woman who sells fresher pretzels.” I don’t ask how she knows this because she doesn’t usually eat pretzels.

At 34th st, we come to the Empire State Building. “You never wanted to go up to the top,” she said. “I still don’t,” I said in my grown up voice. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for forty years. Now it is the fourth tallest building in the world and a cultural icon of New York City. Years later my mother would take my four year old son to the top without me.

We passed the NY Public Library at Fifth Ave and 42nd st. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox (after the library founders) Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression. The huge Beaux Arts structure opened in 1911 and was the largest library at that time.    My mom speaks. “We are so lucky to have this beautiful building in NY.  The Rose Reading Room is so lovely. They have a wonderful collection of books on tape and they are so helpful with recommendations. I am reading Deepok Chopra.” I remembered when they didn’t have books on tape. She listened to operas and symphonies a lot. I guess that is how she knows Mendelssohn.

She tells me about the play in preview she has seen the night before. It isn’t going to open because the play needs work but the music was beautiful and the acting was fantastic. My mother could never say anything bad about a “show.”

We get to Rockefeller Center and see the imposing bronze statue of Atlas holding the heavens on Fifth Avenue. We cut through and pass the gold statue of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind, throngs of tourists and fourteen art deco buildings from the 1930’s. We passed Radio City Music Hall built in the 1930s with 6000 seats. It was called Radio City because that is what the complex of NBC and RCA studios that housed the Music Hall was called in the days of radio. The renovated interior is a great example of art deco design.

We are going to the Circle In The Square Theatre on Broadway but first she has to drop off tickets at the Longacre Theatre on 48th st and the Ambassador Theatre on 49th. Her friends are all ages and always waiting for her. “Look for someone in a green coat.” she says to me.  I steer her in the right direction. When they see her, they come toward her.   She proudly introduces me. I smile. They are all avid theatre goers and are planning what they are going to see that night.

We finally walk into the theatre. She takes out a very large Hershey Bar from her purse and says to the usher,“You looked so tired the last time I was here I thought you might need this.” She asks the usher where her seats are (even though she knew the location of every seat in every theatre in Manhattan). The usher says “I think we can do better.“ She brings us to the excellent house seats. “It’s good to be nice to people,” my mom tells me and takes out her binoculars as the curtain is going up.

Fly safe Mom,

JAZ