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The Library

A Catalogue of Wonders

List Price: $26.00

ON SALE: April 10, 2018 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 224 pages | ISBN 9781640090200
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A love letter to libraries and to their makers and protectors, a celebration of books as objects, and an account of how the idea of the library continues to possess our imagination 

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 importantly, 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.

About Stuart Kells

STUART KELLS is an author and book-trade historian. His 2015 history of Penguin Books, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, won the prestigious Ashurst Business Literature Prize. His critically acclaimed biography of Kay Craddock—the first female president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers—Rare, was published in 2011. An authority on rare books, Stuart has written and published on many aspects of print culture and the book world. He has a PhD from Monash University, and lives in Melbourne with his wife, Fiona, and daughters, Thea and Charlotte.


Praise for The Library

“If you think you know what a library is, this marvelously idiosyncratic book will make you think again. After visiting hundreds of libraries around the world and in the realm of the imagination, bibliophile and rare-book collector Stuart Kells has compiled an enchanting compendium of well-told tales and musings both on the physical and metaphysical dimensions of these multi-storied places. He takes us to Jorge Luis Borges’ fictional ‘infinite library’ and the oral libraries of Indigenous Australians, the oldest of their kind on earth, exploring how European attempts to explain the songlines of the Arrente people became ‘a hub of concentric scandals’. As in a game of Cluedo, deaths, births, crimes and passions all take place in the library. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid such scandal, a 19th-century book of etiquette advised that the works of male and female authors should be segregated ‘unless they happen to be married’.” —Fiona Capp, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Library is ultimately an engaging and well-written volume by a knowledgeable expert and passionate fan of the subject matter. The result is almost like poetry, a rich ode to all things books and everything we love about them. The enjoyment and engagement is so palpable you can almost taste it and Kells proves to be the perfect guide through the subject matter and history, which ironically could have been lost were it not recorded in this faithful tome. You could consider The Library the good book, except that that one was already taken…” —The Australian Review

“Brimming with strange anecdotes about a small handful of books owned by a small handful of people; lost books yielding strange surprises, from discarded condoms to misplaced dental appointment slips . . . Kells’s The Library is at its best when it recounts the stories of . . . ancient libraries, charting the accidental trails of books, and therefore ideas, through processes of translating, pirating and appropriation.” —The Conversation

Praise for Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution

Winner of the Ashurst Business Literature Prize

“A delight to read – informative and entertaining at the same time.” —Alan Cameron AO, Chair of the judging panel, Ashurst Business Literature Prize

“Kells’ story is informative and entertaining and will appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in the world of books. In more than 30 years at Penguin Australia, I never got this close to the truth about Penguin.” —The Sydney Morning Herald

Penguin and the Lane Brothers is written in a conversational style, wearing the enormous amount of Kells’ research lightly. It will be essential reading for all those fascinated by ‘books about books’ and about the foundation stories of great businesses.” —Books+Publishing Magazine

“Kells unearthed a vast array of sources to reveal that the lesser-known Lane brothers, Richard and John (who were co-founders with Allen and held equal ownership), were not only instrumental in the hatching of Penguin but also the wings that made this flightless bird soar… It’s not a hyperbole to describe Stuart Kells’s dedication to providing a detailed historical report of Penguin Books and the Lane brothers as extraordinary… an immersive reading experience.” —BoldFace, the official blog of Editors Toronto

“In Penguin and the Lane Brothers, bibliophile and business consultant Stuart Kells debunks many of the Lane myths and reveals a rather different and thoroughly fascinating story of the development of the company… Kells’ story is informative and entertaining and will appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in the world of books. In more than 30 years at Penguin Australia, I never got this close to the truth about Penguin.” —Robert Sessions, former publishing director of Penguin Australia

“Kells’s new book, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, is a revisionist early history of the firm via a biography of its founding brothers—Allen, Richard, and John. Kells persuasively corrects the imbalance in the extant biographies and histories, which focus on Allen, and presents the neglected but vital contribution of his younger siblings.” —Australian Book Review

Praise for Rare

“Stuart Kells’s life of Melbourne bookseller Kay Craddock is a shibboleth of sorts, a story password-protected for bibliophiles… The drama of Kells’s account arises from a young woman’s effort to bring her own eye (that combination of aesthetic tingle and contextual knowledge that true booksellers and collectors possess) into alignment with the exigencies of the marketplace. It turns out Craddock’s success has always relied on making the beautiful profitable.” —The Australian

“The story of Kay Craddock Antiquarian Booksellers is a wonderful tale of a great partnership (between mother and daughter); of a small business that forged its way into Melbourne’s glorious history on Collins Street; and of a world that embraces change but has been a constant in the lives of readers from all corners of the globe.” —Mary Dalmau, The Age

“An excellent book by Stuart Kells on the history of antiquarian bookselling in Australia through the lens of the personal and business lives of Kay and Muriel Craddock.” —International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

“If… you are one of those whose steps slow to a shuffle while passing second-hand booksellers’ windows, who chase dust spiders from charity shop shelves in search of treasure or who even (like some of my former customers) divert rare book purchases to an address less likely to raise a spouse’s ire, welcome in: here is a book trade tale to relish.” —Geordie Williamson, The Australian

Praise for Outback Penguin

“The eponymous Penguin is Richard Lane, one of the three Lane brothers who founded Penguin Books. In 1922 the 17-year-old Lane set off from his native Bristol in search of adventure and wound up in Renmark, South Australia, as a “Barwell Boy”… The diary he kept is classic archival material, the writing strikingly mature for someone so young.” —Steven Carroll, The Sydney Morning Herald

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