First edition, second printing, with corrections.
The private library is the domestic bookroom: that quiet, book-wrapt space that guarantees its owner that there is at least one place in the world where it is possible to be happy. The story of its architecture extends back almost to the beginning of history and forward toward a future that is in equal parts amazing and alarming.
In The Private Library, Mr. Byers examines with a sardonic eye the historical influences that have shaped the architecture of the private library, and the furnishings, amenities, and delightful anachronisms that make the mortal room into what Borges so famously called Paradise.
Reid Byers is a longtime celebrant of the private library. He has been a Presbyterian minister, a C language programmer, and a Master IT Architect with IBM. The writing of The Private Library, a procès de longue durée, has itself extended through part of the history it describes and has been equally divided between Princeton, New Jersey, and the Blue Mountains of Maine.
"Beautifully designed, Byers' 500-page masterwork lays out how cultures from antiquity to the present created welcoming, comfortable spaces to house books."
– 50 notable works of nonfiction, The Washington Post
"If you dream of building a library in a private house, buy this unusual book [...] For the bibliophile there is on practically every page something to learn, something to delight and something to amuse."
– Charles Spicer, The Book Collector (Winter 2021 Issue)
"Excavating deeply into design history, and the ways the past is continuously reinterpreted, can suggest paths to fresh ideas [...] writer and bibliophile Reid Byers has pored through centuries of evolving concepts [...] "
– Eve Kahn, New York Times in the article "Design Books That Mine the Exotic: Five New Titles Burrow into Designs Past to Reveal a Universe that is Both Perfumed and Colorful"
" [...] hefty, fully illustrated, and beautifully designed volume [...] "
– Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collection, Summer 2021
"This beautifully produced book is designed for any general reader who wants to read a bibliocentric history of the world [...] After a page or two [...] you are hanging on [Byers's] every word [...] "
– A.N. Wilson, TLS
" [...] well-designed, with a 10 × 7-inch page size, one of the books great strengths is the copious illustrations in colour and the excellent diagrams, tables and plans [...] this stimulating book contains a huge amount of thought-provoking information about a perennially fascinating subject [...] "
– Murray Simpson, Library & Information History
" [...] a major work of biblio-scholarship from Oak Knoll Press [...] Beautifully designed, Byers's 500-page masterwork lays out how cultures from antiquity to the present, from East to West, created welcoming, comfortable spaces to house books."
– Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"The nuts and bolts of private libraries through the centuries is a worthwhile line of cultural inquiry, one that is plumbed thoroughly – and with a flair for context and narrative – by Reid Byers in this lively overview. Layout, design and accouterments of "domestic bookrooms", as he calls them, are just one component of his engaging examination, making for an excellent addition to the genre. Highly recommended."
– Nicholas A. Basbanes, NEH Public Scholar and author of A Gentle Madness
"A fascinating as well as extremely useful and well-documented study of the history of library design and architecture in all its aspects. Byers places the private library in relation to the individuals and everyday life, as well as the institutional libraries of each age. To my knowledge, this is a unique reference book, dealing with the architecture and layout of the private library from earliest times to the present day. I believe it must become a companion to all book and library historians, as well as scholars of humanistic disciplines overall. "
– Konstantinos Sp. Staikos, architect and author of The History of the Library in Western Civilization