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The Last of the Great Chained Libraries
May 18, 2013 3:01 PM   Subscribe

"On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture."
posted by brundlefly (18 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chained Libraries…Nothing Kinky Here!
posted by brundlefly at 3:01 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent, many thanks brundlefly!
posted by carter at 3:06 PM on May 18, 2013


I just want to go there, sit down, and commune.
posted by oddman at 3:12 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


DRM has a long history, doesn't it?
posted by dhartung at 3:22 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't recall the particular Iain M Banks Culture novel that featured a chained library that was the dark reflection of this: rather than books, it was reader-monks who were chained to rails in the walls, a system that restricted them to reading certain books. That library always struck me as the perfect metaphor for controlled human ignorance.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am predictably charmed and delighted by the kitteh footprints on the floor rationalized away as the devil's handiwork.
posted by elizardbits at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


How cool. And kind of a surprise to see Zutphen, which is a nice memory for me. Because, when I did my Eurailpass summer they forgot to give me the pamphlet listing the major continental train lines, so I landed in Amsterdam and started to make my way to Stockholm using just the maps on the walls of the Schipol Airport.

So I picked the "wrong" train and got sent on a slow country-side trip with lots of stops, including Goor, Zutphen, and Hengelo. It's always fun to tell the story to Dutch people who wonder how the hell some random American knows about Hengelo. If only I'd known to get out and check out the library in Zutphen.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:47 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It must be too many horror movies, but when I look at these pictures I can't help but feel like somehow they are chained up for OUR protection. Spooky.
posted by selfnoise at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Klaatu... barada...
posted by brundlefly at 4:27 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought I knew a lot about the era, but I never heard of chained libraries before. This is an awesome post. Thanks brundlefly!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that there isn't a TV Tropes page on chained books, there's more than enough material. It's interesting to see the real-world origin of the trope.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2013


It must be too many horror movies, but when I look at these pictures I can't help but feel like somehow they are chained up for OUR protection. Spooky.


Remember, we don't speak Latin in front of the books.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:09 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wonderful post. I would have to be forcibly carried out, drooling.

What an amazing place.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:54 PM on May 18, 2013


I don't recall the particular Iain M Banks Culture novel that featured a chained library that was the dark reflection of this: rather than books, it was reader-monks who were chained to rails in the walls, a system that restricted them to reading certain books. That library always struck me as the perfect metaphor for controlled human ignorance.

Are you thinking of the Sea House, and the Sad Brothers of the Kept Weight, from Against a Dark Background? (Not actually a Culture novel, as it happens.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:29 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It might look strange and oppressive to our eyes but this was a way to make books accessible to the public when a book was worth as much as a farm, (according to the BBC clip about chained libraries). One of my librarian friends just posted on FB that her library has opened a branch in the mall, where all the people are. It's nice to think the leaders at Zutphen were doing more or less the same thing.

(Librarians will win in the end, you know.)
posted by Anitanola at 11:20 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


there's more than enough material

The ute may not recall, but at one time every phone booth in America had a phone book, or at least a yellow pages, chained inside. Usually at least a few pages were torn out, sometimes the entire book, of course. It wasn't exactly unhackable, so to speak. There are at least a couple of fish-out-of-water movies set in the big city where this was emphasized in one way or another (e.g. being on one phone and trying to use the chained-up phone book in the other).

Later stick-style phone "booths" had the flip-up style, viz.

It was also common for places like stores to have a phone book chained to the counter, and a number of types of stores might have a catalog chained for customer use at the counter.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 AM on May 19, 2013


This is so awesomely cool. I barely read Latin, but I'd love to go and look at the books anyway.

Also:

I can't help but feel like somehow they are chained up for OUR protection.

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, there is a library (at Unseen University) where this is literally true. It's not just chains, either--for example, Ge Fordge's Compenydyum of Sex Majik was stored on a block of ice, and the only people allowed to read it were wizards over eighty years old.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:37 AM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Great post. Thanks, brundlefly.
posted by homunculus at 12:35 AM on May 20, 2013


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