Private library

Private library

A private library is a library under the care of private ownership, as compared to that of a public institution, and is usually only established for the use of a small number of people, or even a single person. As with public libraries, some people use stamps, stickers, or embossing to show ownership of the items. Some people sell their private libraries to established institutions such as the Library of Congress, or, as is often the case, bequeath them thereto after death, through a will.

The earliest libraries belonged to temples or administration bodies, resembled modern archives, and were usually restricted to nobility, aristocracy, scholars, or theologians. Examples of the earliest known private libraries include one found in Ugarit (dated to around 1200 BC) and the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh (near modern Mosul, Iraq), dating back to the 7th century BC.


Nearly every house of nobility had a library and virtually every one was split into two rooms: one for Latin texts and one for Greek texts. Rome may very well have been the birth place of specialized libraries, with evidence of early medical and legal libraries.

In the 5th century BC, on the island of Cos outside the city of Pergamum, a medical school complex with a library was built in the sanctuary of Asclepius. This is the first medical school known to have existed, and subsequently it could be credited with the first specialized library.

Renaissance Europe

The Golden Age brought with it a renewed interest in conserving the new ideas being put forth by the great thinkers of the day. The Kings of each European country created impressive libraries some of which have become the national libraries of today.

The national library of France in Paris ("Bibliotheque Nationale de France") was started in 1367 as the Royal Library of King Charles V. In Florence, Italy, Cosimo de Medici had a private library which formed the basis of the Laurentian Library. The Vatican library was also started in the 1400s.

The creation and expansion of universities prompted the gifting of private libraries to university libraries. One notable donation was by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester to Oxford University in the early 1400s.

Modern era

Private libraries in the hands of individuals have become more numerous with the introduction of paperback books.

Nearly every law firm and hospital has a library for use by its employees. In most of the English speaking world these are usually not called private libraries. They are normally considered as medical libraries or law libraries.

Many large corporations also have a library that covers the distinct industry of said company. Scientific establishments are especially apt to have a library to support the scientists. Manufacturing facilities are also likely to have an engineering library to help with troubleshooting and the assembly of complicated parts. In most of the English speaking world these types of non-public libraries are usually not called private libraries. They are called "Special Libraries" and their staff often seeks advancement and knowledge by joining the Special Libraries Association.

Famous private libraries

*Queen Elizabeth II's library in Windsor castle
*Tianyi Pavilion – The oldest private library in Asia; located in Zhejiang, China

ee also

*Carnegie Library
*Private libraries of Hong Kong
*Private libraries of Singapore

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