Barcelona has a network of public libraries that are open to all, containing books that any citizen is free to read, consult or take home on loan. However, apart from these centres, there also exists a parallel network of libraries that further enhance the city’s literary riches. These are private libraries, which people maintain in their own homes, stocking them as they please, and not just anyone can enter them.
The book Biblioteques particulars de Barcelona [“Private Libraries of Barcelona”], published by Barcelona City Council, describes 13 private libraries, each devoted to a different theme. Some are more valuable than others, some are more specialised and some are more academic, but all are adapted to the space that their owners have devoted to them and are arranged as well as may be. These are collections so enormous that the volumes have to be labelled or indexed because, if not, finding a particular book could be a nightmare.
“When you visit someone’s home, you look to see what books they have and how they are organised”, says the editor of this “Private Libraries of Barcelona”, Jaume Subirana, who adds that the book was published for love of literature, to make these hidden treasures known, but also to maintain continue the spirit of going to someone’s house and nosing around their bookshelves. The book mixes interviews and photos, so you can read it and/or look at it. In the end, you learn about the lives of those interviewed through the books they have at home”, concludes Subirana.
Twelve libraries, thirteen different people
Amongst all the Barcelonans that could have been interviewed -thousands according to the authors of this book- 13 were finally chosen. They are: Catalan playwright Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, whose personal library is devoted to narrative, poetry and essays on the theatre; Simona Škrabec, translator and essayist, who has all kinds of books, a collection so vast that she does not know how many volumes it contains; the illustrator Miguel Gallardo, whose collection embraces comic books and illustrated texts, fine art and detective fiction; Professor Ramon Pla i Arxé, with more than 20,000 volumes registered on his computer; the firm of Monvínic, which has a large wine book library; Professor Josep Fontana, who devotes each room in his house to a different subject; the composer Salvador Brotons, who conserves what he calls a “music score library”; the writer Teresa Rovira i Comas, who inherited many books from her father, the politician and historian Antoni Rovira i Virgili; Oriol Comas, who has devoted more than 40 years to collecting books specialising in board games; Dolors and Xavier Folch, sinologist and editor, respectively, whose collection merges Chinese history and poetry; Miquel Iceta, a politician who reads about politics; and Professor Jorge Wagensberg, a physicist who defines his library as a mixture of work and enjoyment.