9 More Gorgeous European Libraries

We’ve seen great libraries from all over the world, including a second look at amazing American libraries. Now it’s time for more beautiful libraries in Europe!

1. The Royal Library, Denmark

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The Royal Library is both the national library of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen’s library. It is also the largest library in all of the Nordic countries. The library was founded back in 1648, but its current building was constructed in 1999. In an attempt to keep the stunning old building (which was completed in 1906) in operation during the massive expansion, the new building was added across the street and features three bridges connecting it to the older wing. The new building is nicknamed the “Black Diamond” because it is made up of two black cubes clad in black granite with a massive glass atrium in the middle that allows visitors to look over the beautiful sea just outside.

In addition to the extra library space, the new building also features a concert hall, exhibition spaces, two museums, a bookstore, a restaurant, a café and a roof terrace.

2. Malmo City Library, Sweden

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When this library first opened in 1905, it was housed in a hotel. About 40 years later it was moved into its own building, a castle-inspired structure designed by architects John Smedberg and Fredrik Sundbärg. Since then, two buildings have been added, including a second collection wing known as the “Calendar of Light” and a central entrance to the two buildings, featuring a café and information desk, known as “The Cylinder.”

These days, the library holds over 550,000 different items, and in 2006 it became the first library in the country to lend out video games.

3. Leipzig University Library, Germany

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Founded in 1542, the Leipzig University Library is one of the oldest university libraries in Germany. The library was originally housed in a monastery building before being moved into a stunning neo-renaissance building on campus in 1891. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the building was destroyed in bombings during WWII. The majority of the books survived the destruction but, even so, 42,000 volumes were lost.

For years, only the undamaged left wing was used; the reconstruction of the rest of the building was only completed in 2002. These days, the library holds over 5 million volumes including 8700 manuscripts and 3600 incunabula dating from the 16th century. They also possess the longest and oldest surviving medical manuscript from ancient Egypt, which is dated from 1600 BC.

4. The University Library of Graz, Austria

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The third largest library in Austria, the University Library of Graz, was founded as a Jesuit college library in 1573; it was turned into a state university library in 1773 when the Jesuit order was abolished. In 1885, the library was moved to a new building on the new university campus. Nowadays, the library has almost 3 million books, 2000 manuscripts and 1200 incunabula.

5. Vilnius University Library, Lithuania

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Founded by Jesuits in 1570, the Vilnius University Library is the oldest library in Lithuania and one of the largest—it contains more than 5.4 million volumes. The library was opened to the public in 1804, then closed altogether after the November Uprising of 1831. It wasn’t opened again until 1856 and while it has largely remained opened since then, the library has been victimized by a number of fires as well as plundering during both World Wars.

Over the years, the rare book department has managed to accumulate over 160,000 items dating from between the 15th and 21st centuries and the manuscript department now holds over 265,000 documents; the oldest dates back to 1209.

6. National Library of Finland, Finland

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This national library is also the library of the University of Helsinki. Aside from maintaining a copy of all printed matter created in Finland, the library also has one of the most comprehensive collections of books published in the Russian Empire.

The oldest part of the National Library dates back to 1844; the "new" rotunda addition is still over 100 years old (it was added in 1903). Most of the library’s 3 million item collection, however, is stored underground in the library’s “bookcave.” The main library is one of the best examples of Empire-styled architecture in Finland and features extensive fire planning design innovations—including vaulted ceilings in all the rooms and halls. The rotunda also features fire precautions including a steel and concrete framework.

7. Biblioteca do Palacio e Convento de Mafra I, Portugal

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In the back of this massive palace is a Rococo library, which many consider to be the highlight of the entire structure. The 35,000 leather-bound books in the library’s collection cover the majority of western knowledge dating from the 14th to 19th centuries. The library was well-designed for the protection of books, leaving space between the shelves and the wall to prevent excess humidity from building up, and a bat roost to prevent accumulation of book-eating insects inside the library.

8. Casanata Library, Italy

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Established in 1701, Cardinal Girolamo Casanata ensured that this monastery library, completed the year after the Cardinal’s death, was always open to the public. Even after the library was taken over by the Italian government in 1872, the library has remained available to all Romans. Included in the library’s collection are 64 Greek codices and 230 Hebrew texts, including 5 Samaritan codices. There are over 2000 books printed before 1500 and 6000 manuscripts.

9. Chethems Library, UK

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This Manchester library is the oldest free public library in all of the UK. It was opened as part of Chetham’s Hospital in 1653, according to the will of Humphrey Chetham, for the education of "the sons of honest, industrious and painful parents.” It has remained in continuous use since that time and holds 100,000 volumes, 60,000 of which were printed before 1851. To save the books from any flooding, the library collection is housed on the second story of the building. To prevent any book theft, all the titles were chained to the bookcases—a common practice of the time.

Even though this is a sequel to the first European libraries article, I’m sure there are still a few beautiful ones out there, so if I missed some you think deserve to be mentioned, feel free to tell everyone about them in the comments.

Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock
10 Facts About Charlotte Brontë
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock

Charlotte Brontë was born in England to an Irish father and Cornish mother on April 21, 1816. And though much of her life was marked by tragedy, she wrote novels and poems that found great success in her lifetime and are still popular nearly 200 years later. But there’s a lot more to Brontë than Jane Eyre.


Maria Branwell Brontë was 38 when she died in 1821 of ovarian cancer (or, it's been suggested, of a post-natal infection), leaving her husband, Patrick Brontë, and their six young children behind. In the years after Maria died, Patrick sent four of his daughters, including Charlotte, to a boarding school for the daughters of clergy members. Brontë later used her bad experiences at this school—it was a harsh, abusive environment—as inspiration for Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre. As an adult, Bronte mentioned her mother (who was also fond of writing) in a letter, saying: "I wish she had lived and that I had known her."


Though one of her boarding school report cards described her abilities as "altogether clever for her age, but knows nothing systematically," Brontë was a voracious reader during her childhood and teen years, and she wrote stories and staged plays at home with her siblings. With her brother Branwell, especially, she wrote manuscripts, plays, and stories, drawing on literature, magazines, and the Bible for inspiration. For fun, they created magazines that contained everything a real magazine would have—from the essays, letters, and poems to the ads and notes from the editor.


portrait of Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte circa 1840.
Portrait by Thompson. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In her late teens and early twenties, Brontë worked on and off as a teacher and governess. In between writing, she taught at a schoolhouse but didn't like the long hours. She also didn't love working as a governess in a family home. Once, in a letter to a friend, she wrote, "I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me, thrown at once into the midst of a large family … having the charge given me of a set of pampered, spoilt, and turbulent children, whom I was expected constantly to amuse as well as instruct." She quickly realized she wasn't a good fit for these caretaking jobs, but she later used her early work experiences as inspiration for passages in Jane Eyre.


When she was 20 years old, Brontë sent the English Poet Laureate Robert Southey some of her best poems. He wrote back in 1837, telling her that she obviously had a good deal of talent and a gift with words but that she should give up writing. "Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity. You will not seek in imagination for excitement," Southey responded to her. The Professor, Brontë’s first novel, was rejected nine times before it was finally published after her death.


English writers Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte.
English writers Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte circa 1834, as painted by their brother.
Painting by Patrick Branwell Bronte. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In 1846, Brontë paid to publish a book of poetry containing poems she and her sisters Emily and Anne had written. The three sisters used male pseudonyms—Charlotte was Currer Bell, Emily was Ellis Bell, and Anne was Acton Bell. (The book sold two copies.) Brontë also used the Currer Bell pseudonym when she published Jane Eyre—her publishers didn't know Bell was really a woman until 1848, a year after the book was published!


The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1847, British publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co published Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. From the start, the book was a success—one critic called it "the best novel of the season"—and people began to speculate about who Currer Bell was. But some reviewers were less impressed, criticizing it for being coarse in content, including one who called it "anti-Christian." Brontë was writing in the Victorian period, after all.


Tuberculosis prematurely killed at least four of Brontë's five siblings, starting with her two oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth (who weren't even teenagers yet), in 1825. In 1848, Brontë’s only brother, Branwell, died of chronic bronchitis, officially, though tuberculosis has also been a rumored cause, probably aggravated by alcohol and opium. Her sister Emily came down with a severe illness during Branwell's funeral and died of tuberculosis three months later. Then, five months later in May 1849, Charlotte’s final surviving sibling, Anne, also died of tuberculosis after a lengthy battle.


In June 1854, Brontë married a clergyman named Arthur Bell Nicholls and got pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was far from smooth sailing though—she had acute bouts of nausea and vomiting, leading to her becoming severely dehydrated and malnourished. She and her unborn child died on March 31, 1855. Although we don’t know for sure what killed her, theories include hyperemesis gravidarum, based on her symptoms, or possibly typhus. Her father, Patrick Brontë, survived his wife and all six children.


Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

Emily and Anne Brontë wrote famous books, too—Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively. The Brontë sisters's writing has inspired devoted fans from around the world to visit their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. The Brontë Society’s Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth has a collection of early manuscripts and letters, and the museum invites bookworms to see where the Brontë family lived and wrote, and walk the Yorkshire moors that inspired many of the scenes each sister depicted.


Thanks to Brontë, the name Shirley is now considered more of a girl's name than a boy's one. In 1849, Brontë's second novel, Shirley, about an independent heiress named Shirley Keeldar, was released. Before then, the name Shirley was unusual, but was most commonly used for boys. (In the novel, the title character was named as such because her parents had wanted a boy.) But after 1849, the name Shirley reportedly started to become popular for women. Decades later in the 1930s, child star Shirley Temple's fame catapulted the name into more popular use.

Denis De Marney, Getty Images
From A Game Of Thrones to War and Peace: These are America's 100 Favorite Books
Denis De Marney, Getty Images
Denis De Marney, Getty Images

Die-hard classic literature lovers might quibble over Fifty Shades of Grey being placed on the same list as Jane Eyre, but alas, the people have spoken. Both are among America’s 100 favorite novels, according to a national survey conducted by YouGov.

The list was compiled in support of The Great American Read, an upcoming PBS series about the joys of reading. Set to premiere on May 22, the eight-part series will introduce the "100 best-loved novels" and feature interviews with famous authors, comedians, actors, athletes, and more. A few of the featured guests will include George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Venus Williams, and James Patterson. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao author Junot Díaz, all of whom have books on the list, will also make appearances.

On the day of the series premiere, PBS will launch a round of voting to determine "America’s Best-Loved Novel." Viewers across the country will have the chance to choose their favorite book from the list of 100 and place their vote online, or through Facebook or Twitter using the #GreatReadPBS hashtag. The winner will be announced this fall.

The oldest book on the list is Don Quixote, a classic Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes (1603), while the newest is Ghost (2016), a young adult book by Jason Reynolds. The list includes authors from 15 different countries, and the books span several genres. Many of the novels are staples on high school summer reading lists, including 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scroll down for the full list of America's favorite books, arranged in alphabetical order.

A Confederacy of Dunces
A Game of Thrones
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Separate Peace
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Alchemist
Alex Cross Mysteries (series)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
And Then There Were None
Anne of Green Gables
Another Country
Atlas Shrugged
Bless Me, Ultima
The Book Thief
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Call of the Wild
The Catcher in the Rye
Charlotte's Web
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Coldest Winter Ever
The Color Purple
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Da Vinci Code
Don Quixote
Doña Barbara
Fifty Shades of Grey
Flowers in the Attic
The Giver
The Godfather
Gone Girl
Gone with the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
Gulliver's Travels
The Handmaid's Tale
Harry Potter (series)
Heart of Darkness
The Help
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hunger Games
The Hunt for Red October
The Intuitionist
Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
Jurassic Park
Left Behind
The Little Prince
Little Women
Lonesome Dove
Looking for Alaska
The Lord of the Rings (series)
The Lovely Bones
The Martian
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mind Invaders
Moby Dick
The Notebook
One Hundred Years of Solitude
The Outsiders
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pillars of the Earth
Pride and Prejudice
Ready Player One
The Shack
The Sirens of Titan
The Stand
The Sun Also Rises
Swan Song
Tales of the City
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Things Fall Apart
This Present Darkness
To Kill a Mockingbird
War and Peace
The Wheel of Time (series)
Where the Red Fern Grows
White Teeth
Wuthering Heights


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