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The Country House Library

by Mark Purcell

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1033215,001 (4.1)9
Beginning with new evidence that cites the presence of books in Roman villas and concluding with present day vicissitudes of collecting, this generously illustrated book presents a complete survey of British and Irish country house libraries. Replete with engaging anecdotes about owners and librarians, the book features fascinating information on acquisition bordering on obsession, the process of designing library architecture, and the care (and neglect) of collections. The author also disputes the notion that these libraries were merely for show, arguing that many of them were profoundly scholarly, assembled with meticulous care, and frequently used for intellectual pursuits. For those who love books and the libraries in which they are collected and stored, The Country House Library is an essential volume to own.   … (more)
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When I first saw the cover of The Country House Library, I imagined that it would consist of beautifully photographed, magnificent reading rooms in houses much older and grander than mine. The book surprised me by being so much more than that!

Yes, there are many photographs of incredible private libraries and gorgeous books, but also the history of the libraries and the people who built and used them, and information about how books were stored, collected and cataloged. The sections are divided chronologically, beginning from Roman Britain and the Magna Carta, and continuing to the twentieth century.

I loved reading about 'Wressle Castle and the Percys" and the 'Paradise Study," a private reading room at the top of a tower. The book is full of interesting pieces that I do not want to spoil here.

I love the look of the library at Arundel Castle, although it is impossible for me to pick a favorite fantasy library from among the ones included in the book.

Very well documented, with over 45 pages of references at the back. I found it a very enjoyable read. I want my own copy. Highly Recommend for the book lover history buff.

*eARC Netgalley* ( )
2 vote Critterbee | Apr 16, 2018 |
Purcell has written an exhaustive history of the English Country House library. And I do mean exhaustive.
He begins his book from the Roman age in Britain, and continues chapter after chapter with a timeline of private libraries. If you are interested in a discussion of the "books formerly in Lord Burlington's villa at Chiswick are today at Chatsworth", then this is for you. The book is clearly written for academics.
He does have a very good reason for writing this book. He doesn't want the country house library to be forgotten. As he states, "The time when country houses were at the centre of the library world has gone, and whole swathes of the books on country house shelves now hold little appeal for many. Theology and classical scholarship, for example, loom large on many ancestral shelves, but these have steadily moved from being matters of central importance for any well-trained mind to subjects widely regarded as irrelevant or abstruse, or even incomprehensible or unutterably boring".
It is a lot to wade through.
On the other hand, it is beautifully photographed. I found myself dreaming what would it be like to lose oneself in one of these libraries. ( )
1 vote 1Randal | Dec 18, 2017 |
A well-researched volume featuring essays tracing the history of English country house libraries. Much of the information on contents of these libraries is derived from estate inventories and published catalogues. One essay discusses its counter-part, the town house library, specifically in the context of those who owned both homes in places such as London as well as in the country. The book was interesting but probably bogs down a bit for the average reader due to its academic nature. The book, however, will interest persons passionate about the history of books and libraries. The book contains a number of illustrations featuring country house libraries and their features. The review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review. ( )
1 vote thornton37814 | Dec 2, 2017 |
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Beginning with new evidence that cites the presence of books in Roman villas and concluding with present day vicissitudes of collecting, this generously illustrated book presents a complete survey of British and Irish country house libraries. Replete with engaging anecdotes about owners and librarians, the book features fascinating information on acquisition bordering on obsession, the process of designing library architecture, and the care (and neglect) of collections. The author also disputes the notion that these libraries were merely for show, arguing that many of them were profoundly scholarly, assembled with meticulous care, and frequently used for intellectual pursuits. For those who love books and the libraries in which they are collected and stored, The Country House Library is an essential volume to own.   

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