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20 of the most beautiful libraries in the world

By: Melissa Breyer on Nov. 15, 2017, noon
Malatesta Library, Italy

Photo: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons

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Malatesta Library, Italy

The Malatesta Library in Cesena, Italy dates to before the invention of printing. Built in the 15th century, it is the oldest intact public library in the world. With a geometric design typical of the early Italian renaissance, the interior is unusual with its 58 pew-like desks, to which the library’s prized collection of 341 hand-printed codices are secured with their original iron chains. Rather than the books coming to the reader, the reader goes to the books. All told, there are more than 400,000 items, including 287 incunabula (pamphlets printed before 1501) and 3,200 16th-century editions, as well as the personal library of Pope Pius VII.