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Medieval Libraries and Manuscripts


Meanwhile a new system of arranging bookcases had come into use on the continent. So far as I have been able to discover, the first library arranged in the way with which we are familiar, namely, with the bookcases set against the walls instead of at right angles to them, is that of the Escurial. These cases were made by Herrera, the architect of the building, in 1584. There is no indication of chaining, but, in conformity with ancient usage, the fore edge of the books, instead of their backs, is turned outwards, and the desk is represented by a shelf, carried all round the room at a convenient height. No doubt so important a structure as this, erected by so mighty a potentate as the King of Spain, would be much talked about, and provoke imitators. Among these, I feel sure, was Cardinal[Pg 52] Mazarin, whose library was fitted up in Paris in or about 1647, as a library to be used daily by the public. After his death his books and bookcases were moved to the building in which they may still be seen. I will now shew you views of the two libraries, and you shall decide whether it is not obvious that the one was suggested by the other.

Next: French Libraries

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