If our eyes are windows to our souls, then come, let me feed your soul some wonder. Below are three of today’s most beautiful libraries in the world, and you’ll find them in Spain.
National Library of Spain
In Madrid, the National Library of Spain was founded in 1712 by King Philip V of Spain, and named the “Palace Public Library.” It’s the largest, most complete repository of books published in Spain as Spain’s Royal Letters Patent (now called the Legal Deposit requirement, circa 1958) made it mandatory for all the printers in Spain to submit a copy of any script or book to this library. The Palace Public Library remained the property of the Crown until 1836, when its charge was handed over to the Ministry of Governance, and was renamed “Biblioteca Nacional” (National Library of Spain), its current name.
Biblioteca Nacional, the majestic front of which is depicted above with its classical Roman architecture, is enriched with antique and valuable collections of Spanish historical importance, such as the drawings of Goya, royal and medieval manuscripts, musical scores of by famous Spanish composers, audio recordings of royalty and literary figures including Pablo Neruda, late Gothic engravings, fine art like that of Picasso, and late 19th century photographs.
This library and its exhibition rooms are open to everyone year-round, and group / school tours are available if booked in advance. Reservations can be made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For individuals, visiting hours vary depending on what you’re planning to see. For the reading rooms (the drawings, manuscripts, and music rooms), you can visit Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 8 PM. On Saturdays from 9 AM to 2 PM, all of the reading rooms, except for the music room which is closed on Saturdays, are available. The exhibitions and museum are closed on Mondays, but are open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM, and on Sundays and public holidays, they are open from 10 AM to 2 PM.
For more information, one can visit the library’s website at http://www.bne.es/en/Inicio/. Biblioteca Nacional, Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22, 28071, Madrid, Spain.
El Escorial Library, San Lorenzo
El Escorial library, located in the Escorial building of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (pictured in whole, above), is approximately 62.8 km (roughly 39 mi) away from Madrid, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It displays the magnificent architectural beauty of the Spanish Renaissance period. This royal compound, founded by King Philip II, also serves as a monastery, a palace, and a final resting place for kings and queens. King Philip II donated his own collection of documents and ancient manuscripts to the library. The Renaissance and Baroque style of the interior of the El Escorial libaray (the main room, the featured picture above) is beautiful and the many 16th and 17th century frescos on the ceiling are marvelous to behold.
Although a fire ravaged part of its collections in 1671, El Escorial library is a treasure trove of illuminated manuscripts, 40,000 books, and a substantial collection of historial maps and mathematical instruments. It also contains an art gallery with amazing masterpieces, such as that of Rogier Van der Weyden, Hieronimus, and Titan.
The entire El Escorial complex remains open for visitors throughout the year. From October to March, it’s open from 10 AM to 6 PM, and from April to September, it’s open from 10 AM to 8 PM.
The complete tour includes a visit to the monastery, the museum of architecture, Hall of Battles, the palace of King Philip II, and most importantly, a tour of the library. The tour generally lasts for approximately five hours. For more information, visit the main website at http://el-escorial.com/. Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Avenida Juan de Borbon y Battenberg s/n, 28200, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
La Antigua Librería, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain
With gorgeous Salamanca, Spain as a spectacular backdrop, La Antigua Librería or “the Old Library”, located within the University of Salamanca (but open to the public) does not disappoint. This library, which has existed since the 13th century, a time when Salamanca was first called “Salamanca” (instead of Helmantika by the Celts and Romans in the 4th century), contains significant documentation of the Unversity’s and Salamanca’s long-standing and victorious history.
As the picture above of the University of Salamanca portrays, the most breath-taking feature of this building is its façade with its Gothic – Plateresque architecture, the predominate style of the time. The ornate and minute details over almost every square inch is truly amazing. However, the inside of the Old Library is just as charming.
Aside from the beautiful architecture, the library holds an impressive collection of ancient manuscripts, incunabula (early printed books, usually printed before 1501), old prints, periodicals, and other historical documents.
While no prior reservation is needed to visit, the library is open only from Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 9 PM. Be aware that during the summer, the festivals in Salamanca cause the hours to vary from its norm. For more information, view its website at http://www.salamanca.es/en/. University of Salamanca, Calle Compañía, 2, 37002 Salamanca, Spain