A bookcase, or bookshelf, is a piece of furniture with horizontal shelves, often in a cabinet, used to store books or other printed materials. Bookcases are used in private homes, public and university libraries, offices and bookstores. Bookcases range from small, low models the height of a table to high models reaching up to ceiling height. Shelves may be fixed or adjustable to different positions in the case. In rooms entirely devoted to the storage of books, such as libraries, they may be permanently fixed to the walls and/or floor.

A bookcase may be fitted with glass doors[1] that can be closed to protect the books from dust or moisture. Bookcase doors are almost always glazed with glass, so as to allow the spines of the books to be read. Especially valuable rare books may be kept in locked cases with wooden or glazed doors. A small bookshelf may also stand on some other piece of furniture such as a desk or chest. Larger books are more likely to be kept in horizontal piles and very large books flat on wide shelves or on coffee tables.

In Latin and Greek the idea of bookcase is represented by Bibliotheca and Bibliothēkē (Greek: βιβλιοθήκη), derivatives of which mean library in many modern languages. A bookcase is also known as a bookshelf, a bookstand, a cupboard and a bookrack.[2] In a library, large bookshelves are called "stacks."

Chethams library interior
Bookcases in Chetham's Library, Manchester
A Book Shelf
A bookcase in a home.


Buddhist ark used by Chinese Jews
A 12th-century illustration of a revolving bookcase for Buddhist scriptures as depicted in Li Jie's architectural treatise the Yingzao Fashi.
Parallel arrangement of bookshelves
Firestone Library Princeton mobile aisle shelving
Mobile aisle shelving
Steel shelving at the University Library of Graz

Private libraries appeared during the late Roman republic: Seneca inveighed against libraries fitted out for show by illiterate owners who scarcely read their titles in the course of a lifetime, but displayed the scrolls in bookcases (armaria) of citrus wood inlaid with ivory that ran right to the ceiling: "by now, like bathrooms and hot water, a library is got up as standard equipment for a fine house (domus).[3]

Revolving bookcases, known as zhuanluntang, have been documented in imperial China, and its invention is credited to Fu Xi in 544.[4] Descriptions of revolving bookcases have been found in 8th- and 9th-century Chinese texts. Revolving bookcases were popularized in Buddhist monasteries during the Song Dynasty under the reign of Emperor Taizu, who ordered the mass printing of the Buddhist Tripiṭaka scriptures.[4] An illustration of a revolving bookcase is depicted in Li Jie's architectural treatise the Yingzao Fashi.[4]

When books were written by hand and were not produced in great quantities, they were kept in small boxes or chests which owners (usually the wealthy aristocrats or clergy) carried with them. As manuscript volumes accumulated in religious houses or in homes of the wealthy, they were stored on shelves or in cupboards. These cupboards are the predecessors of today's bookcases. Later the doors were removed, and the evolution of the bookcase proceeded. Even then, however, the volumes were not arranged in the modern fashion. They were either placed in piles upon their sides, or if upright, were ranged with their backs to the wall and their edges outwards. The band of leather, vellum or parchment which closed the book was often used for the inscription of the title, which was thus on the fore-edge instead of on the spine. Titles were also commonly written onto the fore-edge.[5]

It was not until the invention of printing had greatly reduced the cost of books, thus allowing many more people access to owning books, that it became the practice to write the title on the spine and shelve books with the spine outwards. Early bookcases were usually of oak, which is still deemed by some to be the most appropriate wood for an elegant library.[5] The oldest bookcases in England are those in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, which were placed in position in the last year or two of the sixteenth century; in that library are the earliest extant examples of shelved galleries over the flat wall-cases. Long ranges of book-shelves are somewhat severe in appearance, and many attempts have been made by means of carved cornices and pilasters to give them a less austere appearance. These attempts were most successful as in the hands of the English cabinetmakers of the second half of the eighteenth century.[5]

Tian Yi Chamber book case
Bookcase in the Tianyi Chamber, the oldest library in China
Frederick Augusta Barnard01
The Octagon Library, George III's original library at Buckingham House, showing wall bookcases

Designers and manufacturers

Both Chippendale and Sheraton made or designed many bookcases, mostly glazed with little lozenges encased in fretwork frames, often of great charm and elegance. In the eyes of some, the grace of some of Sheraton's satinwood bookcases has rarely been equalled. The French cabinetmakers of the same period were also highly successful with small ornamental cases. Mahogany, rosewood satinwood and even choicer exotic timbers were used; they were often inlaid with marquetry and mounted with chased and gilded bronze. Dwarf bookcases were frequently finished with a slab of choice marble at the top.[5]

In 1876, John Danner of Canton, Ohio, invented a revolving bookcase with a patented "pivot and post" design. The ingenuity of his work resided in the economy of space it provided. Thirty-two volumes of the American Cyclopedia could be stored in a compact space, and readily available for perusal at the touch of a finger. Danner's bookcase appeared in the 1894 Montgomery Ward catalog. In 1878 he exhibited his bookcases at the Paris International Exhibition and won a gold medal. The John Danner Manufacturing Company was known for honorable workmanship and affordability. The woods were oak, black walnut, western ash, and Philippine mahogany. Viewed as a progressive businessman, Danner was credited with drawing a large trade and business to the city of Canton.[6]

Library shelving

In the great public libraries of the twentieth century, multilevel stacks often served as both structure and shelving,[7] of iron, as in the British Museum where the shelves are covered with cowhide; or steel, as in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; or of slate, as in the Fitzwilliam Library at Cambridge.[5]

Systems of arrangement

Rainbow Bookshelf
Bookshelf arranged by color

There are three common ways of arranging stationary bookcases: flat against the wall; in stacks or ranges parallel to each other with merely enough space between to allow for the passage of a librarian; or in bays or alcoves, where cases jut out into the room at right angles to the wall-cases. The stack system is suitable only for public libraries where economy of space is essential; the bay system is not only handsome but utilizes the space to great advantage. The library of the City of London at the Guildhall is a peculiarly effective example of the bay arrangement.[5]

For libraries where space is extremely tight there is yet another system, usually called mobile aisle shelving. In such systems rows of bookcases are mounted on wheels and packed tightly together with only one or more aisles between them. It is possible then to visit only two bookcase sides at a time, all the others being pressed close together. A gearing mechanism allows users to move the bookcases and open the aisle in the desired location. Because of the danger of tripping on the floor-mounted rails or being crushed between bookcases, these systems may have electronic sensors and/or recessed track, or may be reserved for closed stacks where access is restricted.

Barrister's bookcase

American homes and gardens (1912) (18127546046)
Advertisement for Globe-Wernicke Bookcases of Cincinnati, Ohio (1912)

A barrister requires the use of many law books and would formerly travel on circuit with a judge's court. A specialised form of portable bookcase has thus been developed to meet their needs. A barrister's bookcase consists of several separate shelf units that may be stacked together to form a cabinet. An additional plinth and hood complete the piece. When moving chambers, each shelf is carried separately without needing to remove its contents and becomes a carrying-case full of books.

As most high-quality bookcases are closed by doors, but also to retain the books when being carried, a barrister's bookcase has glazed doors. As the shelves must still separate it's not possible to provide the usual hinged doors opening sideways and so instead they use an "up and over" mechanism on each shelf. The better quality cases use a metal scissor mechanism inside the shelves to ensure that the doors move in a parallel fashion without skewing and jamming. Many of this style, exported worldwide, were made by the Skandia Furniture Co. of Rockford, Illinois around the beginning of the 20th century.[8]

This style of bookcase was either made in a Dickensian period, or harkens back to the style of such times, so they're most commonly glazed with a leaded light and small panes of glass.

Each shelf of a true barrister's bookcase must be portable with a heavy load of books. The more robust examples have folding handles at the ends of each shelf. Modern "decorator" copies of these may look the same, but are often too lightly constructed to be carried whilst loaded, or may even be simply a single fixed case as per a normal bookcase, but with separate doors to each shelf to give the appearance of a barrister's bookcase.


  • The construction and arrangement of bookcases was learnedly discussed in the light of experience by W. E. Gladstone in the Nineteenth Century for March 1890,[5] entitled "On Books and the Housing of Them". An early type of mobile shelving made of steel is sometimes said to have been invented by Gladstone.
  • The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999) also discusses the shelving of books in some detail.
  • Living with Books by Alan Powers (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1999) deals with accommodating books at home.
  • Lunacy & the Arrangement of Books by Terry Belanger (New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2003) also deals with the subject.
  • The Pictorial Catalogue; mural decoration in libraries: the Lyell Lectures, Oxford 1972-1973 by André Masson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981) deals with the systems used in early modern European libraries.
  • See also:
Literature and film
  • In several stories, a secret area is hidden behind a bookcase built into the wall. The entrance is typically opened when a particular book on the shelf is pulled off or uses a switch in a statue, usually under the head. One particularly humorous example is found in the film Young Frankenstein, when Doctor Frankenstein's laboratory is opened via a bookcase triggered by a candle.
  • H. C. Bunner wrote a comic poem "Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe" "I have a bookcase which is what / Many much better men have not / There are no books inside, for books / I am afraid might spoil its looks, etc."[9]
  • In this passage from Lucy Maud Montgomery's[10] novel Anne of Green Gables, the author refers to a bookcase; "Thomas she had a bookcase in her sitting room with glass doors."[1]
  • Beatrix Potter[11] referred to a bookcase in her children's tales The Original Peter Rabbit Books in this passage; "The bookcase and the bird-cage refused to go into the mouse-hole."[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Bookcase". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  2. ^ "Bookcase". Free Thesaurus. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  3. ^ Seneca, De tranquillitate animi ix.4–7.
  4. ^ a b c Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture. University of California Press. 2001. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-520-21484-2.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainPenderel-Brodhurst, James George Joseph (1911). "Bookcase" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 221.
  6. ^ Kenney, Kimberly. Canton: A Journey Through Time, Arcadia Publishing, an imprint of Tempus Publishing, Inc., Charleston SC, Chicago, Portsmouth NH, San Francisco, 2003.
  7. ^ Wiegand, Wayne, ed. (1994). Encyclopedia of Library History. Garland. pp. 352–355.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Greef, Jeff (September–October 1992). "How to Build a Barrister's Bookcase". Fine Woodworking: 51–55.
  9. ^ The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse, ed. J. M. Cohen 1952
  10. ^ "Lucy Maud Montgomery". iThe Literature Network. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  11. ^ "Beatrix Potter". iThe Literature Network. Retrieved 2012-05-19.

Further reading

  • Ellsworth, Ralph E. (1973) Academic library buildings: a guide to architectural issues and solutions 530 pp. Boulder: Associated University Press
  • Petroski, Henry (1999) The Book on the Bookshelf 290pp. New York City: Knopf.

An ambry (or almery, aumbry; from the medieval form almarium, cf. Lat. armārium, "a place for keeping tools"; cf. O. Fr. aumoire and mod. armoire) is a recessed cabinet in the wall of a Christian church for storing sacred vessels and vestments. They are sometimes near the piscina, but more often on the opposite side. The word also seems in medieval times to be used commonly for any closed cupboard and even bookcase.Items kept in an ambry include chalices and other vessels, as well as items for the reserved sacrament, the consecrated elements from the Eucharist. This latter use was infrequent in pre-Reformation churches, although it was known in Scotland, Sweden, Germany and Italy. More usually the sacrament was reserved in a pyx, usually hanging in front of and above the altar or later in a "sacrament house".

After the Reformation and the Tridentine reforms, in the Roman Catholic Church the sacrament was no longer reserved in ambries; some ambries were used to house the oil for the Anointing of the Sick. Today in the Roman Catholic Church, the consecrated elements may only be reserved in a tabernacle or hanging pyx; reservation in an ambry is now forbidden.The Reformed churches abandoned reservation of the elements, so that ambries, unless used for housing vessels, became redundant. But, in the Scottish Episcopal church since the eighteenth century and other Anglican churches since the nineteenth century (following the Tractarian revival), reservation has again become common. In the Church of England the sacrament is reserved in all forty-four cathedrals, as well as many parish churches, although it is very uncommon amongst churches of an evangelical tradition. Reservation of the sacrament is quite common in the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Anglican Church of Australia, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, as well as in the Anglican Church of Canada (though with varying degrees of veneration, depending on the parish). Even some traditionally Low Church parishes, such as St. Anne's, Toronto, reserve the sacrament.

Billy (bookcase)

Billy (stylised as BILLY) is a bookcase sold by the Swedish furniture company IKEA. It was developed in 1979 by the Swedish designer Gillis Lundgren and IKEA have sold 41 million of the bookcases worldwide as of 2009.

Breakthru (board game)

Breakthru is an abstract strategy board game for two players, designed by Alex Randolph and commercially released by 3M Company in 1965, as part of the 3M bookshelf game series. It later became part of the Avalon Hill bookcase games. It is no longer in production. The game has been compared to Fox and Hounds, although it shows more characteristics of the Tafl games of the Middle Ages, such as Hnefatafl. As in Hnefatafl, the game features unevenly matched teams with different objectives. The 3M game set includes a board marked with an 11x11 square grid of spaces, twenty silver-colored pieces, a gold-colored "flagship" and twelve gold-colored "escorts". The game is played out as a naval battle analogous to the siege gameplay of Hnefatafl.

Charlie Drake

Charles Edward Springall (19 June 1925 – 23 December 2006), known professionally as Charlie Drake, was an English comedian, actor, writer and singer.

With his small stature (5' 1"/155 cm tall), curly red hair and liking for slapstick, he was a popular comedian with children in his early years, becoming nationally known for his "Hello, my darlings!" catchphrase.

Dado (joinery)

A dado (US and Canada), housing (UK) or trench (Europe) is a slot or trench cut into the surface of a piece of machinable material, usually wood. When viewed in cross-section, a dado has three sides. A dado is cut across, or perpendicular to, the grain and is thus differentiated from a groove which is cut with, or parallel to, the grain.

A through dado involves cuts which run between both edges of the surface, leaving both ends open. A stopped or blind dado ends before one or both of the cuts meets the edge of the surface

Dados are often used to affix shelves to a bookcase carcase. Combined with a rabbet (rebate) on an adjoining piece, they are used to make the rabbet and dado joint, sometimes used in case goods.

Great Bookcase

The Great Bookcase is a large piece of painted furniture designed by the English architect and designer William Burges. The bookcase is 10 feet (3.0 m) high and 5 feet (1.5 m) wide. It has been described as "the most important example of Victorian painted furniture ever made."The paintings on the bookcase depict Pagan and Christian art depicted in "allegories of poetry, architecture, sculpture, painting and music". Believed to have been constructed by the firm of Thomas Sneddon, it was designed in 1859 and finished in 1862. Christian themes are painted on the left side of the bookcase, and Pagan themes on the right, decorated by fourteen Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian artistsThe bookcase was included in the 1862 International Exhibition in London, where it was displayed in the Medieval Court. A cabinet designed by Burges and painted by Poynter was also displayed at the exhibition. The Great Bookcase was poorly received by the Building News and Architectural Review at the exhibition.The bookcase was designed by Burges to hold his collection of art books, and was originally displayed at his rooms in Buckingham Street in London. It was later placed in the library at the house Burges had designed for himself, The Tower House in Holland Park. The architectural writer and collector and Burges connoisseur Charles Handley-Read described the bookcase as "occupying a unique position in the history of Victorian painted furniture."In 1933, the bookcase was purchased for the Ashmolean Museum by Kenneth Clark, Clark paying £50. After periods on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum and at Knightshayes Court, the bookcase has now been returned to the collection of the museum in Oxford and is on show in its Pre-Raphaelite gallery.

John Danner

John Danner (March 10, 1823 - April 12, 1918) invented and patented (May 16, 1876) the pivot and post revolving bookcase. His bookcase hangs suspended from a simple cast iron bearing which sits on top of an inner column or post. The revolving mechanism consists of two nesting cast iron cones that provide a precise pivot point supporting the entire weight of the bookcase. The top support suspension design addressed the binding and racking problems of previous bottom bearing Lazy Susan type bookcases. "These cases, with their immense load, revolve with a slight touch of the hand; are noiseless in operation, and will last a lifetime." Originally designed to hold 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia, it is a compact, rotating bookcase. "It is a square of 22 inches taking up no more room on the floor than an ordinary chair."

Leistler Bookcase

The Leistler Bookcase is a massive, historic bookcase made out of oak.

My Curse (song)

"My Curse" is a song by American metalcore band Killswitch Engage, the song is released as the first single from their fourth album As Daylight Dies. It reached #21 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, surpassing the band's last breakthrough single "The End of Heartache". The music video was directed by Lex Halaby, who has also directed videos for Hoobastank and Mudvayne. It is also one of the band's most well known songs.

Public bookcase

A public bookcase is a cabinet which may be freely and anonymously used for the exchange and storage of books without the formalities associated with libraries. When in public places these cabinets are of a robust and weatherproof design which are available at all times. However, cabinets installed in public or commercial buildings may be simple, unmodified book-shelves and may only be available during certain periods.

Secretary desk

A secretary desk or escritoire is made of a base of wide drawers topped by a desk with a hinged desktop surface, which is in turn topped by a bookcase usually closed with a pair of doors, often made of glass. The whole is usually a single, tall and heavy piece of furniture.

Shelf (storage)

A shelf (pl. shelves) is a flat horizontal plane which is used in a home, business, store, or elsewhere to hold items that are being displayed, stored, or offered for sale. It is raised off the ground and usually anchored/supported on its shorter length sides by brackets. It can also be held up by columns or pillars. A shelf is also known as a counter, ledge, mantel, or rack. Tables designed to be placed against a wall, possibly mounted, are known as console tables, and are similar to individual shelves.

A shelf can be attached to a wall or other vertical surface, be suspended from a ceiling, be a part of a free-standing frame unit, or it can be part of a piece of furniture such as a cabinet, bookcase, entertainment center, some headboards, and so on. Usually two to six shelves make up a unit, each shelf being attached perpendicularly to the vertical or diagonal supports and positioned parallel one above the other. Free-standing shelves can be accessible from either one or both longer length sides. A shelf with hidden internal brackets is termed a floating shelf. A shelf or case designed to hold books is a bookshelf.

The length of the shelf is based upon the space limitations of its siting and the amount of weight which it will be expected to hold. The vertical distance between the shelves is based upon the space limitations of the unit's siting and the height of the objects; adjustable shelving systems allow the vertical distance to be altered. The unit can be fixed or be some form of mobile shelving. The most heavy duty shelving is pallet racking. In a store, the front edge of the shelf under the object(s) held might be used to display the name, product number, pricing, and other information about the object(s).

Sliding bookcase

A sliding bookcase is a bookcase that is designed to slide, and is typically used to hide the presence of a secret room or space. Sliding bookcases were used in the United States during prohibition to hide rooms or spaces containing liquor. They have also been used to conceal entrances to bars and marijuana growing operations. People have hidden in secret rooms concealed by sliding bookcases to escape detection during police raids. Safe rooms, also known as panic rooms, may be concealed by sliding bookcases. Sliding bookcases may be designed to slide and to swing open using hinges. Several places in the world have sliding bookcases, and sliding bookcases have been portrayed in many fictional works.


Tellico is a KDE application for organizing various collections. It provides default templates for books, bibliographies, videos, music, video games, coins, stamps, trading cards, comic books, and wines. Released under the GNU General Public License, Tellico is free software.

Tellico stores its collection files in XML format instead of SQL databases, which makes it easy for the users to export data or visualize it.

The Addams Family (pinball)

The Addams Family, released in March 1992, is the best selling pinball machine of all time. Designed by Pat Lawlor and Larry DeMar and manufactured by Midway (under the Bally name), it is a solid state electronic pinball arcade game. It was based on the 1991 film of the same name, and features custom speech (mostly derived from the motion picture) by the stars of the film, Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston. More than 20,000 units have been sold thus far.

The Fleeing of a Two-Legged Bookcase

The Fleeing of a Two-Legged Bookcase Live Album (Chinese: 兩腳書櫥的逃亡 演唱會Live; pinyin: Liǎng jiǎo shū chú de táo wáng yǎn chàng huì Live) is the first concert live album by William Wei. Wei held his first major concert on September 18, 2010 at the Taipei International Convention Center, which was recorded for this live release. The 2-CD album contains 23 tracks from the live set, including songs from Wei's debut album as well as three previously unreleased songs: 'Why Life' (外·賴), 'She'll be an Angel', 'Me, a Pig, and His Girlfriend' (我 一只豬 和他的女朋友). Besides, he also covered some of his all-time pop favorites, including famous numbers of A-mei, Khalil Fong, James Blunt, and Maroon 5. The album was released on 3 June 2011, by Linfair Records.

The New Yankee Workshop

The New Yankee Workshop is an American half-hour woodworking television series produced by WGBH Boston, which aired on PBS. Created in 1989 by Russell Morash, the program was hosted by Norm Abram, a regular fixture on Morash's television series This Old House.

Theatre of Cruelty (Discworld)

"Theatre of Cruelty" is a short Discworld story by Terry Pratchett written in 1993. The name derives from a concept of Antonin Artaud (Theatre of Cruelty).

It was originally written for W. H. Smith Bookcase magazine and was then slightly modified and extended, being published again in the programme of the OryCon 15 convention, and then again in The Wizards of Odd, a compilation of fantasy short stories.

It has since been made available on the Internet along with dozens of translations by fans, with Pratchett having stated, "I don't want to see it distributed in print anywhere but don't mind people downloading it for their own enjoyment."

The story involves both the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and a parallel of Punch and Judy.

A murder has been committed: a street entertainer, found apparently battered to death with a very small blunt object, on him bite marks from a very small crocodile. Investigating the incident in his typically direct manner, Carrot Ironfoundersson discovers the death was an accident, the man having choked on a swazzle. It emerges that the entertainer had invented a parallel, live-action version of Punch and Judy, using — and abusing — a troupe of gnomes as the live cast. Carrot asserts that such brutal theatre could never find favour in Ankh-Morpork: "That's not the way to do it".

William Wei

William Wei Li-an (Chinese: 韋禮安; pinyin: Wéi lǐ-ān; born 5 March 1987) is a Taiwanese Mandopop and folk-rock singer-songwriter. He gained media attention as the winner of the first season of the reality television singing competition Happy Sunday in 2007.After signing a contract with Linfair Records, Wei released his debut EP Slowly Wait in 2009. The following year, Wei released his eponymous debut album William Wei. He received 4 nominations at the 22nd Golden Melody Awards and subsequently won Best New Artist.Wei released his second studio album Someone Is Waiting in 2012 and his third studio album Journey Into The Night in 2014. The latter received 2 nominations at the 26th Golden Melody Awards and the lead single "Wolves" ("狼") won him the Best Composer award.On 12 September 2015, Wei held his concert, "Free That Girl", at the Taipei Arena for the very first time.


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