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Look at all those books!
March 30, 2011 5:40 AM   Subscribe

"The finished Strahov library panorama, released Tuesday on Martin’s website, is a zoomable, high-resolution peek inside one of Prague’s most beautiful halls, a repository of rare books that is usually off-limits to tourists... Martin’s panorama lets you examine the spines of the works in the Philosophical Hall’s 42,000 volumes, part of the monastery’s stunning collection of just about every important book available in central Europe at the end of the 18th century — more or less the sum total of human knowledge at the time."
posted by languagehat (24 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah! They have shelves stacked two books deep, too. I don't feel like quite as much of a packrat now.
posted by usonian at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sum total of European knowledge, maybe?
posted by 1adam12 at 6:15 AM on March 30, 2011


> Sum total of European knowledge, maybe?

Yes, that would have been a much more sensible thing to say.
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on March 30, 2011


Stunning.

It's also pretty close to the picture in my head of my ideal home. Just that room. Roaring open fire, nice armchairs, bed and kitchenette hidden behind false bookcases, but yeah, almost there.
posted by spectrevsrector at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess I'd need a toilet too...
posted by spectrevsrector at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2011


Just wonderful! Makes most other libraries I've seen look like cheap motel rooms.
posted by Harald74 at 6:53 AM on March 30, 2011


Sum total of European knowledge, maybe?

Yeah, there's little chance they'd have an edition of the Al Azif that wasn't some bastardized fourth-generation translation by Dee or the like...
posted by FatherDagon at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2011


I live approximately 4 minutes (walking) to this place and had no idea it was there. I know what I'm doing tomorrow!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:31 AM on March 30, 2011


We were those poor tourists who could only take a couple of glimpses of the hall when we visited in the fall of 2009. The consolation prize was this shot.
posted by of strange foe at 8:23 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


This looks exactly like my living room, except with a much smaller percentage of paperback pulp fiction collected during junior high.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I visited Prague a few years ago and was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Strahov by one of the librarians. It's an amazing place (even more amazing that it survived confiscation by the Communist regime); as well as the library, there's a cabinet of curiosities, complete with a unicorn's horn, an unconvincing dodo, a xylotheca and a portrait of Abbot Kryšpín Fuck.

The article says that Maulbertsch's trompe l’oeil ceiling 'depicts dozens of historical and religious figures, ranging from Noah and Moses to the French encyclopedists', something of an understatement as it actually depicts Descartes. Diderot and Voltaire being cast into the flames of hell.
posted by verstegan at 8:37 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


...more or less the sum total of human knowledge at the time...

...more or less the sum total of human knowledge at the time...

More than the sum total of human knowledge at the time.

Ia! Ia!
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2011


It's all well and good until the Library launches down from the upper shelves and gives you a suplex for mis-shelving a book.

Bring bananas.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2011


As astonishingly beautiful as the library looks, I'm kinda disappointed that they haven't scanned all the books and made them available online. What's important is what's in the books, dammit. Otherwise it's just a fancypants VIP room. I can't afford a 14th century original manuscript, but I would gladly pay for a high resolution PDF of it.

It's like getting an interview with a collection of the greatest minds in Europe's history, but only talking about their clothes for the entire time.
posted by chambers at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The cool thing is, the Philosophical Hall is the NEW part of the library. That monastery goes back to the 12th century, and there are older sections of books. (I did some research there about 15 years ago.)
posted by msalt at 10:17 AM on March 30, 2011



They are in the process of digitizing the catalog and many of the rarest manuscripts. The latter are found in the online manuscriptorium.
posted by msalt at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, my goodness meeeee. This is astounding! I mean of course the room and the books therein together represent so much that is smileworthy about libraries, but the reason this is good is the hi-res zoomability. I love being able to 'step forward' and see the titles on the spines. And daydream. Thanks for the post.

Oh, and if anyone now fancies a really good book of photography of libraries, I heartily recommend this.
posted by paperpete at 12:00 PM on March 30, 2011


As astonishingly beautiful as the library looks, I'm kinda disappointed that they haven't scanned all the books and made them available online.

Bloody expensive proposition you're talking about, and in fact it is partially under way.

You have to consider as well how much here is unique to the Strahov. Manuscripts are one thing, early printed books are scattered widely, and much that is in the Strahov is certainly already on the internet. (NB, google books is not the be all and end all by any means.)

Currently the Germans are doing some remarkable work in this area, and though I cannot find the link, they offer people the option of getting a specific work ahead of the line in exchange for a donation to help defray the cost of digitization. I've checked a few odd titles here and there, and I have yet to see a single screwed up transfer.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:51 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Sorry MSalt, missed your link on preview and so doubled it. What, I wonder, was comedian doing in the Stranov? Even without knowing, the very idea gives me hope for the world's future.)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:15 PM on March 30, 2011


>>What, I wonder, was comedian doing in the Strahov?

Researching the early history of palindromes, a subject I've become an expert on. (I just spoke on "The Mystical History of Palindromes" at Gonzaga.)

Specifically, "de laudibus sanctibus crucis" (810 CE) by Hrabanus Maurus, which contains some amazing figures he drew over the text of a block Latin poem; the letters iniside the drawings form sentences with different meanings, including at least one Latin palindrome.
posted by msalt at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


wow.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:03 PM on March 30, 2011


> Neat! My day is made and it's only 9:30. Many thanks.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:33 AM on March 31, 2011


(And is the Gonzaga lecture available anywhere to those who missed it? Me, I love that kind of stuff.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:37 AM on March 31, 2011


Thank you very much. That was the first time I gave that talk, and I'm still working on it, so it's not on YouTube or anything. But I am happy to present it anywhere someone would have me give it. Know anybody at TED? (sort of joking but not really)
posted by msalt at 9:41 AM on March 31, 2011


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