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March 1, 2007

The Library at Night

Many book gatherers could perhaps write a book such as this one, inspired by their own collections. Though of course most of them aren’t blessed with Alberto Manguel’s erudition– the feature which makes this intensely personal book of such wide interest. In The Library at Night, Manguel approaches his library as a work in progress whose completion is a most fortunate impossibility. The book itself is similarly constructed, of pieces and anecdotes connected by chance to make a history of libraries, and librariness. And though, as Manguel (via Virginia Woolf) points out, the difference between reading and learning is wide, that one can do both with this delightful book, and with such pleasure, must double its force. The history of the new library at Alexandria, the man who was buried in his apartment in an avalanche of books, book mobiles by donkey in Columbia (the biblioburro), the internet’s undying present, the history of the British library or the contradictions of Carnegie. How to catalogue books, or to find room for books, the best shapes for rooms for books. Political, whimsical, artful and bursting with stuff. The Library at Night was not intended for everyone, but to those for whom it was, this book will prove a valuable and indispensable addition.

One thought on “The Library at Night”

  1. Steven W. Beattie says:

    I agree with Manguel: no bibliophile’s library is ever complete. I’m constantly adding books to my collection (picked up another two yesterday), but can’t seem to cull it to save my life. Makes it particularly hard when I’m facing a move, as I am right now.

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