The attraction of lost libraries

Sometimes it seems that libraries are at their most alluring when they are lost forever, or even when they never existed. Jorges Luis Borges’ infinite library is surely the best known of his many imaginative creations, while Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night devotes a good few pages to libraries which are no more, or which never were. Two recent books, by Mustafa El-Abbadi on the ancient Library of Alexandria, and by Marcus Tanner on the lost library of the Hungarian Renaissance King Matthias Corvinus, centre on the theme.

We may, presumably, expect more of the same as libraries become increasingly digital and their ‘books on shelves’ predecessors disappear. Will anyone, I wonder, ever mourn a deleted digital library ? In the meantime, we may expect ‘library nostalgia’ and ‘library melancholy’ to take centre stage for a few decades. Good opportunities for authors, critics and tourist guides.

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