View Gallery

Available in

The Library

A Catalogue of Wonders

List Price: $16.95

March 12, 2019 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640092266
Order Now From Indiebound

“Excellent . . . Tracks the history of that greatest of all cultural institutions.” —The Washington Post

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. To research this book, Stuart Kells traveled around the world with his young family like modern-day “library tourists.” Kells discovered that stories about libraries are stories about people, containing every possible human drama. The Library is 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.

The Library . . . abounds in fascinating tales.” —The New York Times Book Review

STUART KELLS is an author and historian. His history of Penguin Books, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, won the prestigious Ashurst Business Literature Prize. The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders was short-listed for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the New South Wales Premier’s General History Prize, and has been published around the world in multiple languages.


Praise for The Library

Short-listed for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
Short-listed for the New South Wales Premier’s General History Prize

“Library holdings have helped reassure me that values associated with reason, intellect and art really do tend to survive dark ages of various kinds . . . It was therefore a pleasure to sit down among the stacks and read a new book about the history of this very subject . . . The Library lends itself to browsing, but a sequential reading reveals a larger theme . . . Abounds in fascinating tales.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Excellent . . . Tracks the history of that greatest of all cultural institutions.” —The Washington Post

“A thread of wonder runs throughout these pages, weaving in and out of the subject of libraries in general—the strangeness of the idea, the intrinsic appeal of the idea.” —The National

“Kells’ fervor is visible from the outset . . . Will delight and educate.” —Chicago Review of Books

“Bibliophiles will be unable to resist a book so in line with their adoration of these sacred spaces.” —Fine Books & Collections

“In this free-roaming history of libraries, Kells, well read, well traveled, ebullient, and erudite, relishes tales of innovation, obsession, and criminality . . . Kells’ revelatory romp through the centuries cues us to the fact that, as has so often been the case, libraries need our passionate attention and support, our advocacy, gratitude, and (given Kells’ tales of book-kissing, including Coleridge pressing his lips to his copy of Spinoza) love.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A bright, idiosyncratic tour of a book historian’s collected knowledge about libraries and bibliophilia . . . The book assembles snippets from a wide variety of disciplines into an eclectic history of libraries as cultural, political, aesthetic, literary, mnemonic, and, above all, personal phenomena dedicated to collecting and preserving the written word.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Book-trade historian Kells (Penguin and the Lane Brothers) blends scholarly expertise with sharp wit in this enjoyable history of libraries . . . Kells’s passion for this subject suffuses this pleasurable book, calling readers to understand the importance of the library’s role preserving humanity’s history and why libraries are still relevant today.” —Publishers Weekly

“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 charts the transition between formats such as papyrus scrolls, parchment codices, moveable type, and ebooks. There are many whimsical detours along the way, and Kells even devotes a chapter to fantasy libraries . . . Kells translates his stunning depth of research into breezy digestibility.” —Big Issue

“There is so much to learn and enjoy in this book, with the impressive amount of research never weighing down the accessible writing . . . Kells makes an elegant plea for the future library—one that will resonate with most book lovers.” —Good Reading

“Kells’s tale is an homage to libraries everywhere. It will delight all bibliomaniacs and those who still appreciate the tactile connection with the book, its smell, watermarks, and imperfections, and who relish in walking through stacks and library halls where many minds, illustrious or not, have wandered before them.” —EuropeNow

“Rich with gossipy tales of the inspired, crazy, brilliant, and terrible people who have founded or encountered libraries through history . . . Kells’s reflections are wonderfully romantic, wryly funny.” —The Australian

The Library is a treasure trove and reaching the last page simply prompts an impassioned cry for more of the same.” —Otago Daily Times

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

Related Products