Stuart Kells discusses his new book The Library: A  Catalogue of Wonders

The Library by Stuart Kells


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“If you think you know what a library is, this marvellously idiosyncratic book will make you think again.” —The Sydney Morning Herald


Libraries are much more than mere collections of volumes. The best are magical, fabled places whose fame has become part of the cultural wealth they are designed to preserve. Some still exist today; some are lost, like those of Herculaneum and Alexandria; some have been sold or dispersed; and some never existed, such as those libraries imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, Umberto Eco, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others.

Ancient libraries, grand baroque libraries, scientific libraries, memorial libraries, personal libraries, clandestine libraries: Stuart Kells tells the stories of their creators, their prizes, their secrets, and their fate. To research this book, Kells traveled around the world with his young family like modern-day “Library Tourists.” Kells discovered that all the world’s libraries are connected in beautiful and complex ways, that in the history of libraries, fascinating patterns are created and repeated over centuries. More important, he learned that stories about libraries are stories about people, containing every possible human drama.

The Library is a fascinating and engaging exploration of libraries as places of beauty and wonder. It’s a celebration of books as objects, a celebration of the anthropology and physicality of books and bookish space, and an account of the human side of these hallowed spaces by a leading and passionate bibliophile.


Stuart Kells discusses his new book The Library: A  Catalogue of Wonders on the Bookmonger podcast. 

This podcast originally appears on Bookmonger April 9, 2018.

Duration: 10 min



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Stuart Kells wrote ‘Penguin and the Lane Brothers’ – a groundbreaking counter-history of Penguin Books – which won the Ashurst Business Literature Prize. His latest book, ‘The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders’ has been described as a love letter to old books and old libraries, and is being published around the world. (See his Guardian article on the writing of this book: Blood, Bookworms, Bosoms and Bottoms: The Secret Life of Libraries.) His history of the ‘Big Four’ (co-authored with Professor Ian Gow of Harvard Business School) is due for publication in 2018. Stuart is currently working on a book about Shakespeare’s Library. Under the Books of Kells imprint, he has published the five-volume ‘Australian Book Collectors’ series, edited by Charles Stitz.



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