All of the libraries in the world—whether small or large, public or private—serve the same purpose: to preserve, cherish, or show off the riches of human knowledge. Now, for the first time, an internationally renowned photographer takes the reader on a journey to more than 20 of the most historic of these magical places, all architectural treasures. From the dramatic, baroque Library of the Institut de France in Paris, to the splendid Vatican Library in Rome; from the majestic Royal Library in El Escorial, Spain, to the famed New York Public Library, a Beaux—Arts masterpiece—here are some of the most exquisite libraries of the Western world. Included are national, scholarly, and religious libraries from 12 countries, which have in common a distinguished heritage and an architectural setting that emphasizes art and culture. The accompanying text traces the history of libraries to the present day, and describes how they came to serve famous personalities and men of letters. Libraries must be counted among civilization's crowning achievements; this elegant book is a fitting tribute to that accomplishment.