Did You Know “Bookshelf Porn” Is a Thing?

Kids today, amiright?

The thing is, I get it. I’ve been known to disappear into Google-image-search rabbit holes from time to time after I’ve come across some image of an incredible library in Austria or Derbyshire. So, let’s get into another rabbit hole, shall we?

What I’m about to show you is a list of private libraries of note. These are the collections of famous authors, wealthy nobles, and various assorted eccentrics. 

Peralada Castle Library, collection of Miquel Mateu (1898 to 1972), Girona, Spain

peralda inside private libraryperalda outside view

The stunning thing about this library is its incredibly rare and important collection of books…and the fact that it’s in a beautiful castle is pretty cool too. This library was once the living quarters of monks inside a Carmelite monastery before it was repurposed in the year 1888. It holds over 1,000 very old copies of Don Quichote, 200 titles from the 15th-century beginnings of typography, an ancient copy of Malleus Maleficarum, a 1492 copy of Cosmographie by Claudio Ptolemee, early maps drawn before the “New World” was known by Europeans to exist, and the list goes on and on.

George Lucas’ private library, Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA

George Lucas private library downstairsGeorge Lucas private library upstairs

Love him or hate him, George Lucas is doing just fine. Skywalker Ranch houses this library, its own firestation, and a 300 seat movie theater. Imagine spending a day lounging in there. How many fun genre books must he have?

The Biltmore Estate Library, Asheville, NC

Biltmore Library ViewBiltmore Library BalconyBiltmore Library Spiral StaircaseBiltmore Library Ceiling Fresco

The Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States, and it sits in the hills of North Carolina. Its 250 rooms were built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. The incredible painting on the ceiling was created many years before the library opened by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675 to 1741), and it was shipped in from Paris after being restored. And just check out that gorgeous spiral staircase. Ah, to be obscenely wealthy.

The library’s shelves house 10,000 books, with 12,000 more sitting in storage. Mr. Vanderbilt was a history buff, so a large part of his collection is comprised of valuable historical texts. However, many of Vanderbilt’s titles reflect the interest he took in home design (architecture, landscape design, art, interior decoration) which initially lead him to build this incredible mansion, so his library is partly a storehouse for records of what was in fashion for home design throughout the 1800s.

The Private Library of William Randolph Hearst, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

Hearst Castle Library DayHearst Castle Library CloseupHearst Castle Outside View AerialThe Gothic Study at Hearst CastleHearst Castle Gothic Study Books Daylight

Ever seen the movie Citizen Kane? The one about the journalism magnate whose wealth grew to such levels that it alienated him from everyone he cared about? This is his library, and also what he called his “Gothic Study” where more books are kept. They are both breathtaking.

The Chatsworth House Library, Derbyshire, England

Chatsworth House Library DayChatsworth House Library other sideChatsworth House Library BalconyChatsworth House Exterior

The Chatsworth house is massive, historically significant, famous for appearances in film, and most of all, it is chock full of wealth, beauty, and valuable cultural artifacts. Its library holds one of the most important collections still in private ownership which has grown and evolved over a span of 400 years.

Currently, the Chatsworth collection is being appraised as part of The Chatsworth Library Project. To see what rare and incredible works are turned up in the library’s shelves, you can follow the blog of research associate, Wilfred Jack Rhoden.

Cardiff Castle, Wales

Cardiff ExteriorCardiff Castle Ornate Ceiling DetailCardiff Castle LibraryCardiff Castle Fireplace Detail Better

On the whole, Cardiff is about 2,000 years old. First, the Romans built forts there, then the conquering Normans built a castle keep over those forts, then even later, it began to change hands among noble English families. One day a commission was offered to William Burgess, a man with a serious penchant for interior design, to reinvent the place. It is now one of the most wildly ornate castles in the world. The library there is small, compared to the others on this list, but it is incredibly beautiful and stocked with ancient books.

Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, Scotland

Dunrobin Castle CloseDunrobin Castle ExteriorDunrobin Castle GardensDunrobin Castle Library Shelf with BoatDunrobin Castle Library

The largest house in Scotland’s Northern Highlands, Dunrobin Castle is around 750 years old and is still home to the nobles of Sutherland. The library holds more than 10,000 books, mostly about the area’s development through the 19th century and Scots law.

The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Jay Walker Library Beautiful with JayJay Walker Library Cool LightingJay Walker Library EscheresqueJay Walker Library from BalconyJay Walker Library GlassJay Walker Library HugeJay Walker Library upstairs

This 3,600 square foot library is housed in a wing of the home of American inventor, entrepreneur, and digital luminary Jay Walker. The library is not open to the public, and its website states: “The Library contains some 20,000 volumes and hundreds of museum-level books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts. The architecture of the vast room was inspired by the mind-bending designs of artist M.C. Escher; it features multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, a glass bridge, illuminated glass panels, dynamic lighting, and specially commissioned art and music.”

Christiansborg Castle, islet of Slotshomen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Christiansborg Castle Library Close DetailChristiansborg Castle Library Day

Christiansborg Castle Library OverviewChristiansborg Castle Exterior

Christiansborg Castle holds the Royal Library of Denmark, and every book that is published in Denmark must have two copies deposited here. So, not only is this library stunningly beautiful, it is a depository for the complete literary history of Denmark going back many, many years. This, of course, means it is not a private library like the others on this list, but, come on. It’s too amazing to be left off any self-respecting page of bookshelf porn.

Though there are so many more unbelievable private libraries in the world, I must cut this list short for now. But next week, I’ll be back with some of the coolest bookshops ever.

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