Here is a wonderful site that appeals to several of my (too many) interests.
Since I am trained as a Librarian and love books, and also have an interest in history, how could I not be intrigued by this post on Beautiful libraries which I came across a little while ago. It has taken me a while to get around to sharing it.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to do a grand tour of even some of these? My hat goes off to the intrepid compiler who gathered these photos, and the readers who suggested more. It's nice to see that the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library made the grade.
I've been asking myself which I would pick as a favorite to visit if I was given an opportunity to. It's a difficult choice. I have already been to "The Long Room" at Trinity College Dublin, where they keep ( or used to ) The Book of Kells, and also the National Library of Ireland in Dublin so I could cross those off but as for the others, how would I choose? So I guess I won't, but I have to say I am partial to the ones with added art; the painted ceilings are wonderful although it might be distracting to read there! The Vatican Library is almost visually overwhelming.
At the end of this "curious expedition" into old libraries are some links to other sites on libraries and some excellent book suggestions. One that appeals is mentioned in the comments: The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges which is apparently out of print and not cheap second hand.
More...The Library of Babel is one of Borges' finest short fictions -- a meditation on the possible, the infinite, the nature of hope and the creation of meaning. The Library contains all possible books, all possible combinations of the 25 orthographic symbols in all possible languages, and therefore everything man is capable of knowing and expressing -- but it appears to have no order, no organization. It contains the true catalogue of the Library, as well as innumerable false catalogues, books proving the falsity of the false catalogue, and books proving the falsity of the true catalogue. Yet from chaos arises meaning: There is no combination of characters one can make . . . that the divine Library has not foreseen and that in one or more of its secret tongues does not hide a terrible significance. There is no syllable one can speak that is not filled with tenderness and terror, that is not, in one of those languages, the mighty name of a god
That intrigues. I'll have to watch for it at the annual book sale. Borges was once director of the Argentine National Library, something I didn't know until now, so I have learned much on my curious expedition. And this site offers many others!