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The Library: An Illustrated History by…
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The Library: An Illustrated History (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Stuart Murray

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304436,791 (3.71)14
Member:GaryCandelaria
Title:The Library: An Illustrated History
Authors:Stuart Murray
Info:New York, NY : Skyhorse Pub., c2009.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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The Library: An Illustrated History by Stuart A. P. Murray (2009)

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This book was pretty interesting. Murray provides a snapshot of each historical period and place, discussing the beginning of the written word, books, and the first libraries, finally ending with the libraries in the United States and the beginnings of the digital age of libraries. Murray also provides a list of some of the best and most important libraries in the world, which is pretty cool.

I picked up this book because I've always been interested in libraries and books, and I am thinking of getting my Masters degree in Library Studies in a few years. While the information was interesting and I learned a lot, some of the chapters were kind of boring, and I didn't always follow the organization Murray chose.

This is a good book for anyone interested in the history of libraries, or any bibliophile who wants to know a bit more about the institutions they love. ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Jul 12, 2014 |
It took me twice through the photo credits of this volume before I realized what it is: it is the tangible form of information about libraries that is available on the internet. I do not mean to suggest that it is in any way trite or meaningless, rather that it is an example of a 21st century way of writing a book. In other words: this is library after the Internet. At least, according to one person.

The passages quoted and the illustrations chosen are very well suited to their purposes. This is a book that I may not read word for word again, not because of a lack of facts, rather because, not unlike much popular specialist writing – it’s not as in-depth as I would like. The number of websites Murray lists in his Further Reading suggestions do very little more than convince me that in print in a narrow column is a terrible place for a URL – they are cluttered and not at all easy to parse on three or four lines.

The last almost 70 pages of the book are dedicated to a geographically random list of Libraries of the World. It is a wonderful list that could be the basis for an extremely expensive and fulfilling year traveling the globe. There is just enough information to inspire more investigation without being tiresome.

I recommend this for the Sunday afternoon library history reader. It reads fairly quickly, cites wonderful works and is very accessible. ( )
1 vote WaxPoetic | Oct 26, 2011 |
Stuart A.P. Murray's The Library: An Illustrated History (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009) is an extremely broad historical survey of libraries (and certain other aspects of the book world), with pictures. The first several chapters, focusing on the ancient world through the early modern period, are the strongest; after that, particularly in the chapters on American libraries during the colonial period through the twentieth century, Murray's narrative becomes both repetitive and disjointed, lending an air of choppiness to the text that mars the work rather severely.

There are a number of small factual and typographical errors in the text which should have been edited out, and which draw the reader's attention (at least this reader's attention) away from the story. The third librarian of Congress was George Watterston, not Watterson, for example (why this jumped out at me I have no idea).

Murray's book ends with a random survey of some fifty individual libraries and institutions around the world, some of which have already been discussed at length in the text. This section doesn't seem to be governed by any organizational scheme at all, and jumping all over the world for brief snippet profiles may not have been the most effective way to present this information. There is no concluding section to round out the work, which ends abruptly after the institutional profiles.

I should say a word about the images, which are mostly well-chosen (although not always of the highest reproduction quality) and complement the text nicely. There are unfortunately no reference notes, and the "For Further Reading" section is poorly-formatted and surprisingly succinct.

In the introduction, eminent library history scholar Donald G. Davis, Jr. sums up the challenges of a book like this: "The difficult choices to be made in preparation of a short work that reaches for such breadth and scope should not be underestimated. Telling the intriguing story of the production, transmission, preservation, organization, and utilization of cumulated human knowledge - and telling it in a style that appeals to the widest spectrum of readers - is both a challenging and a most worthy task. No one - from library historians and cultural scholars to the general public and young readers - will agree on what should be included in or omitted from the text and illustrations. Least of all will librarians themselves be of one mind - of that we can be sure! But the effort to tell this story, however sketchy and idiosyncratic, is well worth it."

Just so. A flawed book, but a noble attempt nonetheless.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2009/10/book-review-library-illustrated-history.... ( )
2 vote JBD1 | Oct 27, 2009 |
I really only read this because one of my favorite professors wrote the intro. It was too broad an overview for my tastes and questionably organized with little markers throughout the chapters indicating a change in idea rather than transition sentences. It also had no conclusion, ending with descriptions of a handful of noteworthy libraries. It was a quick read though and enjoyable enough. ( )
1 vote e1da | Oct 6, 2009 |
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The history of libraries from ancient to modern times is presented through a review of the types of documents stored, the structures themselves, the way they have been managed, and the important part they have played in every culture around the world.… (more)

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