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15 Spectacular Libraries in Europe

We've posted photos of gorgeous libraries before, but we just can’t get enough of these stunning book repositories. For those of you who share this opinion, here are fifteen of the most beautiful libraries throughout Europe, in no particular order.

Trinity College Library, Ireland

Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, with two story dark wooden arches, this is also the largest library in all of Ireland. It serves as the country’s copyright library, where a copy of all new books and periodicals must be sent when they apply for copyright protection. The library is also home to the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800.

Image courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr stream.

Bristol Central Library, England

This library, completed in 1906, is fascinating for its unique combination of architectural styles. The front exterior was designed in Tudor Revival and Modern Movement styles in order to allow it to harmonize with the next door Abbey Gatehouse. It was built on a slope, and the front of the building is only three stories tall. But thanks to the two basement levels built into the hill, the back of the building has five stories, and features a much more plain design than that of the front. Inside, the design is mostly Classical, featuring ample arches, marble flooring and a stunning turquoise glass mosaic at the entrance hall.

Image courtesy of Steve Cadman's Flickr stream.

Codrington Library, England

The Codrington Library of Oxford University was completed in 1751 and has been used by scholars ever since. In the late 1990s, the building underwent a massive renovation in order to provide better protection for the books and to make the library more user friendly with better wiring and some new electronic work stations.

Images courtesy of Miguel Bernas' and Beth Hoffman's Flickr streams.

Bibliothe?que Nationale de France, France

The National Library of France has expanded greatly since new buildings were added to house the collection in 1988. Even so, the old buildings on the Rue de Richelieu are still in use, and are utterly gorgeous as well. These buildings were completed in 1868, and by 1896 the library was the largest book repository in the world, although that record has since been taken from it.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Zubro.

The Library of El Escorial, Spain

This library is located in Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the historical residence of the king of Spain. Phillip II was responsible for adding the library and most of the books originally held within. The vaulted ceilings were painted with gorgeous frescoes, each representing one of the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, dialectic, music, grammar, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. These days, the library is a World Heritage Site, and it holds more than 40,000 volumes.

Image courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar's Flickr stream.

Biblioteca Geral, University of Coimbra, Portugal

The General Library of the University of Coimbra consists of two buildings, the New Building built in 1962, and the Joanina Library built in 1725. The Joanina Library is adorned with Baroque décor and houses the library’s volumes that date from before 1800.

Images courtesy of Taco Ekkel's and Mick L's Flickr streams.

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

The library of the Dutch Parliament contains every record of parliamentary hearings and discussions. Because it was built before electric lighting made the storage of books a lot safer, the building was constructed with a massive leaded glass dome in the ceiling to allow in light and minimize the need for candles and gas lamps inside the library.

Image courtesy of Jackie Kever's Flickr stream.

Delft University of Technology Library, Netherlands

While modern architecture can often be fascinating and unique, it rarely stands up to more classical designs in terms of beauty. The Delft University of Technology library is a rare exception. With a massive skylight in the ceiling that becomes a steel cone after escaping the confines of the library and an eco-friendly grass-covered roof, the library is both stunning and totally modern.

Images courtesy of Robert Lochner's and Thomas Guignard's Flickr streams.

Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland

This lovely library is not only the oldest in Switzerland, but one of the oldest and most important monastery libraries in the world, holding over 160,000 volumes, many of which date back as far as the 8th century. The Rococo-styled library is often considered one of the most perfect libraries in the world and has earned the Abbey a place as a World Heritage Site.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Stibiwiki.

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Built in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is the largest monastery library in the world. The ceiling is adorned with frescoes depicting the stages of human knowledge up until the Divine Revelation. The entire design reflects the ideals and values of the Enlightenment.

Melk Monastery Library, Austria

The Baroque-styled abbey and the library within were completed in 1736 based on designs by Jakob Prandtauer. The library includes a world-famous collection of musical manuscripts and features stunning frescoes by artist Paul Troger.

Austrian National Library, Austria

Austria’s largest library is located in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses over 7.4 million items in its collections. The library was completed in 1723 and features sculptures by Lorenzo Mattielli and Peter Strudel and frescoes by Daniel Gran.

Images courtesy of Craig Elliot's and Jessica Curtin's Flickr streams.

Wiblingen Monastery Library, Germany

This library, completed in 1744, was modeled in the Baroque style after the Austrian National Library, but it is by no means just a cheap imitation of the original, and it certainly stands on its own. Just outside the library there is an inscription reading “In quo omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae,” which translates to “In which are stored all treasures of knowledge and science.”

Image courtesy of volzotan's Flickr stream.

Strahov Monastery Library, Czech Republic

This impressive library collection contains over 200,000 volumes, including just about every important title printed in central Europe by the end of the 18th century. While it started being built up over 860 years ago, both the collection and the building housing the books repeatedly fell victim to fires, plundering and war. In fact, the current building was not erected until 1679, and a second hall was added near the end of the 18th century. The collection continued to be dispersed during periods of Nazism and communist rule, although the library has since managed to recover most of the titles lost during the last century.

As if the gorgeous décor and impressive book collection weren’t impressive enough on their own, the library also has a favorite feature of many geeks –- two secret passageways hidden by bookshelves and opened with fake books.

Images courtesy of Claudia Dias' and James Whitesmith's Flickr streams.

Clementinum National Library, Czech Republic

The series of buildings that make up this National Library owe their inception to an 11th century chapel dedicated to Saint Clement (hence the name), although the buildings you see now were not constructed until much later, when a Jesuit college was built on the location. The Jesuits transferred a number of books to the new college in 1622. The National Library itself was founded in 1781, constructed in a Baroque style, and has served as a copyright library since 1782.

The collection now includes historical examples of Czech literature, special materials relating to Tycho Brahe, and a unique collection of Mozart’s personal effects. In 2005, UNESCO awarded the library their Memory of the World prize.

Image courtesy of Bruno Delzant's Flickr stream.

Have any of you visited any of these stunning libraries? Do you guys have any tips for potential tourists hoping to visit? For those that haven’t been to these locations, what is your favorite library?

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Louvre Abu Dhabi
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Art
The Louvre Abu Dhabi Just Opened the World's First Radio-Guided Highway Art Gallery
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi

One way to plan an epic art road trip is to drive from museum to museum, but in the United Arab Emirates, you can take in masterpieces without leaving your car. As Artforum reports, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has lined a stretch of highway with billboards displaying works by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Piet Mondrian.

The 10 works on display along the E/11 Sheikh Zayed road connecting Dubai to Abu Dhabi are recreations of pieces at or on loan to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which developed the project in partnership with three radio stations. Dubbed the Highway Gallery, it was "created to reinforce art's role in elevating everyday life into something beautiful and memorable," the museum website reads.

Like in a traditional gallery, the 30-foot-by-23-foot displays along the road are accompanied by a guided audio tour. Drivers can learn the title, artist, technique, and other details about each piece by tuning into a participating local radio station (Radio 1 FM, Classic FM, or Emarat FM). There they will hear descriptions of Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, Van Gogh’s Self Portrait, 1887, and Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow, and Black, as well as the Islamic sculpture Mari-Cha Lion and the sarcophagus of Egyptian princess Henuttawy.

The Highway Gallery will run through mid-March. After that, art lovers can drive their cars to the Louvre Abu Dhabi to see the items in person.

[h/t Artforum]

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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