Graeme Shimmin, author of A Kill in the Morning, on two of Manchester’s inspiring libraries:
This library is astonishing. The sheer ambition of the people who built it just staggers me. We really don’t think this big any more.
Originally built in the nineteen thirties, in classical style, modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, and recently modernised, it’s one of the most impressive libraries I’ve ever seen.
The centrepiece is the reading room, which seats over three hundred people under its vast dome. This is the inscription from the Book of Proverbs that encircles the reading room:
Wisdom is the principal thing.
Therefore get wisdom.
And with all thy getting get understanding.
Exalt her and she promote thee.
She shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her
She shall give to thine head and ornament of grace
A crown of glory she shall deliver to thee.
Also remarkable, and older, built around the turn of the nineteenth century by the widow of one of the richest cotton magnate in Manchester. At the time Manchester was so smoggy that the library had to be designed to filter the soot from the exterior air so the books weren’t ruined. It was also one of the first public buildings in Manchester to be lit by electricity.
The Rylands Library, now part of the University of Manchester, was built in a Victorian Gothic style. It’s a cross between a church and an Oxford college, and like the Central Library has been modernised recently.
The reading room is on a much smaller scale than the reading room at the Central Library, but no less impressive in its own way.