Reading List: National Library Lovers’ Month

Stack of books with a library card

Celebrate the magic of libraries during National Library Lovers’ Month with a selection of themed books from the Frick Art Reference Library. The volumes featured in this recommended reading list explore libraries as spaces, as well as the book as a motif throughout art history. Books from this list and much more are available to browse in our reading room, which remains open by free appointment.

  1. The Library: An Illustrated History

    By Stuart A. P. Murray (2009)

    The history of the library tells of the “production, preservation, organization, and utilization of the cumulated human knowledge.” In this comprehensive book, marvel at how libraries contain collective memories and learn about their advent and evolution through the ages. Covering libraries from the ancient and medieval worlds, this text goes on to explore how libraries transformed in America, becoming not just spaces for resources, but for community engagement and learning.

    Book cover with an image of a library reading room
  1. Libraries

    By Candida Höfer (2005)

    Explore the serene spaces of libraries through the eyes of photographer Candida Höfer in this stunningly illustrated book. Depicting unpopulated reading rooms and library stacks as varied as those of the British Library, Rijksmuseum, and Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, Höfer relates the beauty and tranquility of these places of knowledge and community. Architectural features, interior design, and photography merge in this book to relay the unique quality of the library as an ideal meditative space.

    Book spread with images of grand libraries
  1. One Hundred Objects in the Frick Art Reference Library

    Edited by Stephen J. Bury (2022)

    Honoring the centenary of the Frick Art Reference Library, One Hundred Years at the Library chronicles the history of the institution since its founding in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick in memory of her father, Henry Clay Frick. This book traces the library’s history through an array of unique holdings, publications, people, manuscripts, photographs, and artworks. This rich compilation of essays written by library staff explores major themes in the institution’s history, including its engagement with new technologies, from early photography to current-day initiatives such as the Frick Digital Collections.

    Book cover featuring blueprint architectural plans
  1. Reading Art: Art for Book Lovers

    By David Trigg (2018)

    Page through the history of the book as an inspiration for art from the medieval period to the present day. This compact, beautifully illustrated volume compiles a visual history of the book, whose form has not changed substantially for hundreds of years and thus transcends time and culture. Discover how the image of the book has evolved to fit shifting cultural attitudes about reading, from religious contexts to a signifier of the interiority of the reader to the book itself as a work of art.

    Book spread with a sculpture of a mother and child at left and a painting of a girl reading a book to a dog at right
  1. Goya & the Mystery of Reading

    By Luis Martín-Estudillo (2023)

    Francisco de Goya y Lucientes witnessed the democratization of reading in Spain during the burgeoning prevalence of the published work. Himself an avid reader, Goya reflected his literary influences in visual form. See how the artist introduced a new kind of painting that relied on literary references, engaging the growing reading public in a new way through his modern canvases and sketches.

    Book cover featuring an artwork of a man reading
  1. The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text

    By Garrett Stewart (2006)

    In this volume, art historian Garrett Stewart examines the often overlooked theme of reading in art. Interpreting paintings from the sixteenth century to the present day, Stewart not only delves into the symbolism and iconography of the painted work of literature, but also observes the look of the reader and how the subject is interacting with the book. This incisive study of the cross-section of art and readership encourages us to rethink the relationship between art and the written word.

    Book spread featuring two Renaissance artworks of people reading
  1. Picturing the Reader: Reading and Representation in the Long Nineteenth Century

    By Beth Palmer (2022)

    The Victorian era saw the rise of the literary work, which quickly became imbued with cultural significance. As reading gained popularity, it became entangled in debates regarding gender, literary value, familial relationships, leisure time, and more. Author Beth Palmer follows these discourses through art—from illustrations to paintings, photographs, and diary entries—as it mirrored literary discourse throughout the nineteenth century.

  1. Vincent’s Books: Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him

    By Mariella Guzzoni (2020)

    Vincent van Gogh’s famous letters reveal a voracious reader who valued books as much as art and god; as he wrote, “one has to learn to read, as one has to learn to see and learn to live.” Covering three periods in the last—and most artistically productive—twenty-one years of the artist’s life, this book chronicles Van Gogh’s reading from the time he worked at Goupil & Co. in The Hague, London, and Paris and throughout his artistic career. Discover the over two hundred authors (in four languages) mentioned in his writings to see Van Gogh’s art anew through the lens of literature.

    Book cover with portrait of Vincent van Gogh surrounded by books

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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