Sunday, June 28, 2009


Norm has linked to this collection of photographs of gorgeous libraries, oozing with grandeur. I am going to add a more humble one from the corner of Greece where my house is.

The village of Milies in Pelion has a library with a long history linking it to the Greek Enlightenment (Διαφωτισμός), the movement that provided the intellectual foundations of the revolution against Ottoman rule. It even holds 15th Century editions of Aristotle and Aristophanes.

You can explore their web site, but I posted this as an example of the importance of smaller collections, often acting as instruments of popular education, as well as the large, prestigious buildings emanating power.

Two that I have used regularly developed out of private collections that sprung from a determination to record movements for social change. The Working Class Movement Library in Salford is a spectacular collection of material from the late 18th Century onwards. The best source for the history of anarchism in 19th Century Britain is the Max Nettlau papers held amongst other amazing archives at The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

Neither are in spectacular buildings, an old fire station and a converted warehouse, yet they are two of the most exciting places I have visited. The full glory of the library lies in its contents, and sometimes, as with these examples, their own history.


Anonymous said...

Your sentiments are unarguable, but, two points, one general, the other particular.

The Working Class library is, surely, in a former nurses home adjacent to the old firre station. If only those bricks could speak!

More generally, the Frows, whose life's work the library was, were, on a personal basis, the most delightful and charitable people imaginable. But they were good old fashioned Stalinists. They would have had an excuse for every libertarian blogger sent to the Gulag.

The library may be great, but there can be a murky story behind it.

Now, about Andrew Carnegie............

The Plump said...


See here

And you are dead right about the building. Oops.

Will said...

"They would have had an excuse for every libertarian blogger sent to the Gulag."

Same here. 'Libertarian bloggers' are the worst of all. In fact -- fuck the gulag -- just behead the fuckers and burn down their properties. They wouldn't like that.