South America As a Bookish Destination

November 2, 2022
Embark on a literary voyage down South, traversing captivating libraries from Brazil to Argentina.
Vincent Phan

Welcome to the enchanting literary realm of South America.

A continent replete with vibrant cultures, rich histories, and breathtaking landscapes. But amid its many wonders, one treasure often overlooked is its collection of mesmerizing libraries.

Each one is a shrine to human ingenuity, a testament to the continent’s passion for literature and learning. These libraries are more than mere buildings, they are symbols of cultural heritage and repositories of knowledge, representing the journey of a continent through the ages. Embark on this literary journey with us as we unravel the mysteries hidden within their walls and discover the unique story each library has to tell.

Our journey begins in the bustling city of Mexico City, home to the Biblioteca Vasconcelos.

The brainchild of Alberto Kalach, this library is a futuristic architectural marvel that defies traditional library design. Story after story of metal and glass bookcases defy logic, floating above like a science fiction version of Hogwarts.
Photo Credit: Euskadiko Arkitektura Institutua - Instituto de Arquitectura de Euskadi - Basque Country Architecture Institute

With its transparent walls and floating bookcases, it creates a feeling of walking amidst a cloud of books. A visual wonder, it provides a unique and surreal reading experience that redefines the relationship between readers and books.

We head next to Rio de Janeiro, where the Real Gabinete Portugues Da Leitura awaits us.

Leaving behind the ultra-modern, we take a leap back in time to the 19th-century Rio de Janeiro, and the majestic Real Gabinete Portugues Da Leitura.

Photo Credit: Donatas Dabravolskas
Photo Credit: Fabricio Moura

Built in 1837 by Portuguese immigrants homesick for their culture, it was conceived as a bastion of Portugal's rich literary and intellectual tradition in a new land. Stepping inside, one is instantly transported to another era. Its neo-Manueline facade gives way to an awe-inspiring cathedral-like reading room, brimming with antique books.

The allure of our literary journey now draws us further south, to the beating heart of Buenos Aires, and the El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

Once a thriving theater built in 1919, this architectural marvel was repurposed as a bookstore in 2000, brilliantly preserving its original frescoed ceilings, ornate theater boxes, and crimson stage curtains.

Photo Credit: Diego Grandi

It's an immersive encounter, bridging the gap between past and present, where literature takes center stage amidst the echoes of yesteryears. In the words of Virginia Woolf, "Books are the mirrors of the soul," and this magnificent bookstore allows you to reflect upon the soul of Buenos Aires in the best way possible.

Finally, our adventure takes us to Lima, to the 17th-century Monastery of San Francisco Library.

Nestled within this grand Franciscan monastery, the library holds the oldest collection of books in the Americas. Founded in 1672, this Baroque-style monastery hosts one of the oldest and most impressive libraries in the Americas. With over 25,000 antique texts, many dating back to the period of the Spanish conquest, it serves as a veritable treasure trove of colonial-era works.

Photo Credit: Mark Edward Harris

A visit to this library is a journey back in time. The first thing you'll notice is the aroma of old parchment and polished wood, a distinct scent that seems to carry the whispers of the past. The second floor houses the main library, a room characterized by finely carved wooden shelves and antique globes. The room, with its intricately carved roof and lined with beautifully bound books, gives off a nearly palpable aura of historic scholarship.

Included in the library's extensive collection are numerous theological and philosophical manuscripts, ancient texts, and a rare edition of the Bible dated from 1571. It is a testament to the library's history and its commitment to preserving knowledge that such a collection has been maintained.

Our journey through these breathtaking South American libraries offers a glimpse into the rich history, vibrant culture, and longstanding respect for literature and knowledge that these regions possess. They are a testament to the transformative power of books, serving as gateways to our past and bridges to our future.

Ready to turn the page and dive deeper? We invite you to journey with us through 15 other spellbinding book places across the continent. Sign up to our email list below to find out more about our first edition release, and let's continue this unforgettable voyage of literary discovery together.

Unfortunately there is nothing to show here at the moment
Norra alt text.