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Publisher's Summary

Perfect for book lovers, this is a fascinating exploration of the history of libraries and the people who built them, from the ancient world to the digital age.

Famed across the known world, jealously guarded by private collectors, built up over centuries, destroyed in a single day, ornamented with gold leaf and frescoes, or filled with bean bags and children’s drawings - the history of the library is rich, varied, and stuffed full of incident. In The Library, historians Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen introduce us to the antiquarians and philanthropists who shaped the world’s great collections, trace the rise and fall of literary tastes, and reveal the high crimes and misdemeanors committed in pursuit of rare manuscripts. In doing so, they reveal that while collections themselves are fragile, often falling into ruin within a few decades, the idea of the library has been remarkably resilient as each generation makes - and remakes - the institution anew. 

Beautifully written and deeply researched, The Library is essential for booklovers, collectors, and anyone who has ever gotten blissfully lost in the stacks.

©2021 Andrew Pettegree, Arthur der Weduwen (P)2021 Basic Books

Critic Reviews

"What is a ‘library’? Is it a mute display of personal wealth and power, or of a humble devotion to God? A routine community resource, or a waste of taxpayers’ money? In The Library, we are led nimbly through the centuries, seeing how it has been all of these things and more, as the authors place on the shelf a cornucopia of bookish history." (Judith Flanders, author of A Place for Everything)

"A sweeping, absorbing history, deeply researched, of that extraordinary and enduring phenomenon: the library." (Richard Ovenden, University of Oxford)

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