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Racking ideas and solutions for your books

A Book Case Is Book Racking By Another Name

Book racks and book cases go back a long way with private libraries first appearing in private Roman collections housing scrolls which were displayed in racking systems that ran from floor to ceiling and which were made of citrus wood and exquisitely inlaid with ivory – libraries and fine houses went together like peas and carrots.

The first books were painstakingly written by hand and were kept in boxes or chests which the owners carried around with them and, as collections grew, these were stored on shelves and racks or in cupboards. Later, the doors were done away with giving birth to the book rack as it is known today. In the 12th century, Europe experienced a revival in culture and learning. Monasteries were no longer the only places where books were stored – universities began to build up book collections and many kings and educated individuals began to collect books.

The invention of the printing press heralded in the modern era of libraries and now books could be printed in vast quantities instead of being laboriously written out by hand. Today’s large libraries were subsequently established together with the incorporation of shelving and racking systems on which to house the thousands of books. The oldest book racks in England can be found at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University which was built in the last years of the 16th century. It incorporates carved cornices to soften the normally severe appearance of book cases.

Chippendale and Sheraton book racks were designed incorporating charming and elegant glazed lozenges and encased in fretwork frames at around the same time. In 1876, John Danner of Canton, Ohio invented a natty revolving bookcase and patented it as a post and pivot design, where it was showcased at the Paris International Exhibition winning the gold prize.

Book racks in great public libraries are often made of iron as is the case of shelves found in the British Museum – of special note is that these iron shelves are covered in cowhide. In the Library of Congress in Washington DC the racking is made of steel. In the Fitzwillian Library, Cambridge, the racking is made of slate.

There is much to be said about shelving and racking throughout the ages. We rely heavily on racking and shelving in all aspects of our daily lives – not least of all the systems that are incorporated into libraries in our homes, universities and libraries. If you are looking for the perfect racking solution, look no further.