Biblioteca di Strahov I, Praga

2009, Printed Later
Archival lambda color photograph

Signed, titled, dated and from edition of 5 on artist’s label on verso.

Available in 3 sizes: 100 x 120 cm. (39.4 x 47.2 in.), 120 x 150 cm. (47.2 x 59.1 in.), 180 x 225 cm. (70.9 x 88.6 in.)

The Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov in Prague’s Hradcany district is one of the oldest Premonstratensian monasteries in the world. Founded in JI43 by the powerful Bishop of Olomouc, Jindrich Zdik (c.1080-1150), and granted royal privileges by the Premyslid King ofBohemia Vladislaus II (c. III0-1174) and his wife Gertrude, Strahov Abbey soon became the spiritual counterweight to the royal residence that originally stood nearby. A library and scriptorium formed an integral part of the monastery right from the start, as witnessed by the library’s earliest holdings from the middle of the 12th century, which still carry the ownership mark “Mons Sion” (the Latin equivalent of the Bohemian “Strahov”) and were in some cases produced in-house. Even older codices, such as the Strahov Evangeliary of 860/865, entered the library in later years as a result of endowments, bequests and specific acquisitions. These last became necessary after the loss of valuable holdings as a result of fire, wars and plundering. Thanks to Strahov’s close contacts with Prague’s Charles University, the library also acquired important works of academic and scientific literature. Unique documents relating to the Prague activities of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) originate from the library of the astronomer and director of the Prague Observatory Anton Strnad (1746-1799). By the end of the 18th century the Bibliotheca Strahoviensis was considered the most important monastic library in Bohemia. Its comprehensive holdings and the broad spectrum of topics covered by its books even led its librarian, Vaclav Urban (1752-1787), to propose opening it to the academic public as a national library, in keeping with the enlightened thinking of the day. The Theological Hall, designed in the Baroque style and housing 18,000 volumes, was complemented during the Enlightenment by the Philosophical Hall, with its 42,000 volumes on philosophy and the natural sciences. The first of these monumental halls was commissioned in 1671 by the philosopher and Abbot of Strahov, Jeronym Hirnhaim (1637-1679), who also formulated the principles of faith, study, human knowledge and divine providence illustrated in the paintings and inscriptions making up the interior decoration. Built by Giovanni Domenico Orsi de Orsini (1634-1679), an architect of Italian extraction who had trained under Carlo Lurago (1615-1684), the Theological Hall is fitted with shelves with a reddish hue and its codices uniformly bound in white combine with the gleaming white stucco decor and framed frescos to form a decorative whole in the Bohemian Baroque style. The Philosophical Hall, by contrast, built starting in 1783 by lgnac Jan Palliardi (1737-1824), is a neoclassical ensemble with an interior which is characterised by magnificent book cabinets, galleries and wall fittings in walnut, all of which came from the dissolved Premonstratensian abbey of Louka, near Znojmoin in southern Moravia. Just one book cabinet – installed in a niche and containing a collection of rare French encyclopedias – has an imperial provenance: it was a gift from the Empress of the French, Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847) on the occasion of her visit to the Royal Canonry in 1812. The development of the sciences from Antiquity to the 18th century is traced in the illusionistic ceiling fresco, one of the last works by Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724-1796) and dating from 1794. Following its appropriation by the Czechoslovakian State in 1950, Strahov’s library was incorporated into the Museum of National Literature. In 1991 it was restituted to the Premonstratensians, who continue to run the canonry today. Its historical library rooms and accompanying cabinet of curiosities can today be

visited as a museum. – Massimo Listri’s The Worlds Most Beautiful Libraries, Taschen