Books Held by Kings

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

an exhibition at the British Library, London, November 11, 2011–March 13, 2012
Catalog of the exhibition by Scot McKendrick, John Lowden, and Kathleen Doyle
London: British Library, 448 pp., $65.00 (distributed by the University of Chicago Press)

A reader climbing the great staircase of the British Library’s modern premises near St. Pancras Station in London is confronted suddenly by that wonderful building’s most wonderful feature. Behind the glass walls of an internal tower six stories high, more than 60,000 sumptuously bound books stretch upward, shelf upon shelf, a cliff-face of leather and gilt lettering gleaming softly through the tinted glass. In that architectural coup de théâtre, a world of learning serves as the visible core of a building created to contain all the learning of the world.

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