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Online Companion

At last a reference book that is only about library and book superlatives.

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2018 Online Companion

In summer 2014, when I began fresh research work for the 3rd edition of Library World Records I had the advantage of two previous editions of my reference book already on the book market for just over 10 years. The first edition of Library World Records having being published in summer in 2004. During this 10-year period, I benefited from numerous reviews of the 1st and 2nd editions of the reference boook by librarians around the world, as well as input and numerous tips from a worldwide audience ranging from librarians and students to ordinary readers, who all emailed to me about updates to existing facts in the books or new facts to add for a new edition. My research work for the 3rd edition of Library World Records was in two parts, first was locating new facts and the second was indpendent verification of the facts. Take for instance the chapter in the 3rd edition titled "World Records for Books, Periodicals and Bookstores" It spans more than 100 entries on such subheadings as: Earliest Written Works in English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish; Earliest Written Works in Japanese and Korean; First Book Printed in Hebrew; First Books Printed in Russian and Eastern European Languages; Biggest, Heaviest and Smallest Books etc. I was able to verify all the new facts from at least three independent reliable and independent sources. Where different dates are given for instance, I used the majority rule: e.g. sources citing the same date more often for the date the first book in English was printed.

Since the 3rd edition of the book was published in September 2017, I have either come across extra new information or have been made aware of extra new information that will compliment the already published 2017 book edition.

This section of the website thus contains extra information (and the sources) for all those who already have a copy of the 3rd edition of Library World Records. Each week starting from March 9th 2018, I will update this webpage with brand new information that has come to light. I hope that by summer 2018, I will have so many updates, making this web page as popular as the book itself and a worthy online companion.

If you would like to contribute new information on as well, on any world record about book, libraries, librarians etc please use my email below. Please include any source(s) to verify the information.

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2018 Online Companion For Library World Records: The Lists

Before You Start Reading The Online Companion You need three things: a copy of Library World Records 3rd edition, a nice spot in a library or cafe to read the online companion on your tablet or laptop and finally you need a few hours to spare. If you dont have a copy of Library World Records 3rd edition yet, you can borrow a copy from your local university or public library. Almost all the major national libraries around the world have a copy of Library World Records 3rd edition or have placed an order. In Britain, for instance, you can read all three editions of Library World Records at the British Library in London.

Next update 23rd March 2018. N.B. Please email new data to be included here by 9pm on 22nd March 2018.

World Records for National Libraries
World Records for Public and Subscription Libraries
World Records for University and Academic Libraries

List 64. Oldest university libraries in the world.

Old University Library in the World Has been Reopened
On pages 72 to 74 in Library World Records 3rd edition, I wrote a detailed essay about the earliest university libraries in the world. Then on pages 75 to 76 of the book, I compiled a detailed list of the oldest existing university libraries in the world. The very first university library listed, based in Africa (have a guess! or check out the book) had been closed for several years due to the old age of the building. The 19th September 2016 issue of the popular U.K. Guardian broadsheet newspaper announced that the library had reopened..finally!! During the restortion work, the libraries oldest and most important and most treasured books and manuscripts and inscriptons were stored in a high security government bank vault! Some of the high technology introduced to preserve its most ancient books and manuscripts (made from paper, parchment, vellum and papyrus etc) are amazing. One of them involved a newly constructed sewage underground canal system, which was added to help drain away moisture that can degrade the fragile materials a lot of the books and manuscripts are made of, most notably 10th century AD paper, papyrus and parchment documents among others. Two other high technology used were digital scanners that can identity tiny holes in ancient manuscripts so it can be patched immediately, and a special machine that can gently spray a special liquid that moistens rare manuscripts enough to prevent them from cracking. Some of the other ancient university libraries listed on pages 75 to 76 of Library World Records 3rd edition have began similar restoration works or are in the process of doing so. Sometimes libraries doing restoration work also have to re-bind the fragile spine of incunabula (or books printed before the 1501). The most popular high technology used all over the world to preserve library book and manuscript collections is still of course to digitize them for storage, sharing and display on computers forever.

The digitization and preservation and reparing of ancient and rare books and manuscripts with expensive equipment are major ongoing projects in many countries around the world. National and local governments are under pressure to increase the budgets of libraries to enable them to carry out necessary restoration projects. Image Copyright eRecordsUSA.

List 64. Oldest university libraries in the U.K.

New Facts: Old English in medieval British Schools
On page 78 in Library World Records 3rd edition, we learn about the oldest schools and school libraries in Britain between the AD 400s to AD 1100. If you don’t understand the origins of modern English very well, you will be amazed to know that the language of instruction, used in the aforementioned schools between the AD 400s to AD 1100 in the book was in Old English, which today is over 90% different from modern English in both grammar and written form!! Try to see if you can understand the first sentence in the picture shown below.

This Old English text comes from the famous Beowulf manuscript housed in the British Library. This is the type of English used in between AD 400s to AD 1100 in the earliest primary and secondary schools in Britain. The libraries of these schools also had books written in the Old English. Latin was also a major language of instruction and in many cases Latin and not Old English was the language of choice. Image Copyright, The British Library.

List 67. Oldest university libraries in Spain

New Facts: Salamanca University and Hernán Cortés
On pages 76 and 81 in Library World Records 3rd edition, I provide fascinating details about the famous Salamanca University Library in northern Spain. Alongside personal photographs I took of the famous library during my visit to Spain in 2014 which you can view in the book, I also go on to explain how the likes of Christopher Columbus consulted the library just before his 1492 voyage to discover the Americas. I have been made aware of another famous Spanish explorer who is associated with Salamanca University: his name is Hernán Cortés. After consulting Encyclopedia Britannica, it is indeed a fact. But while Christopher Columbus consulted the Salamanca University library, Hernán Cortés was actually a student of the universty. Hernán Cortés is best remembered today as the Spanish Conquistador who took on the mighty Aztec Empire in Mexico (twice the size of Spain), and conquered it then years later was ruled by Spanish King of Castile and his successors in the early 16th century till the early 19th century.

In 1501, Hernán Cortés was a student of Salamanca University studying law and Latin. Fast forward 18 years later: Hernán Cortés arrived what is today, Mexico's state of Tabasco, then part of the mighty Aztec Empire with 11 ships, 608 soldiers and sailors and 16 horses. As seen in the picture above, Hernán Cortés meets Montezuma II (leader of the Aztec Empire), pleasantries are exchanged and the rest is history. Image Copyright,

World Records for Speciality Libraries and Archives
Miscellaneous World Records for Libraries
World Records for Books, Periodicals and Bookstores

List 124. Oldest existing written works
This section of Library World Records 3rd edition, is one of the most comprehensive in the entire book (over 67 pages devoted to studying how reading and writing began in the world). This list in particular takes a detailed look at the very first places in the world to not only develop writing systems, but also produce the very first manuscripts and first inscriptions, starting from 6,000 years ago. Prior to 6,000 years ago, no one in the world could read or write at all. Literacy was 0%! everywhere. People were of course speaking different languages back then, for instance, in Europe most people spoke just 3 or 4 languages, chief among them was what is termed proto Indo-European language (ancestor to 98% of modern European languages). Today, in some countries like Denmark, literacy is a prefect 100%.

List 124. How was the Alphabet Invented?

New Facts
On pages 133 to 155 in Library World Records 3rd edition, I provided an amazing list of the very first alphabets invented (about 2,000 years after writing was invented 6,000 years ago) and the first books produced using alphabetic writing systems. I list the titles of so many of the first major books produced using alphabetic writing from Africa, the Middle East to Europe. The alphabet as we know it today, was first invented in three places: by the Canaanites (Semitic people living an an area that is modern day Palestine), their alphabet was known as the Proto-Sinatic script, some scholars call it the Proto-Cannanite script. The other earlier alphabet invented by Semitic people living in what is today modern day Syria, the (Ugaritic script) due to discovery of the famous Ras Shamra inscriptions. The Semitic people living in ancient Lebanon or Phoenicia invented the 3rd type of the alphabet (the one we still use today, the Phoenician script).

Scholars today agree that the Proto-Cannanite script was developed by the Canaanites who once lived in the Sinai in ancient Egypt and were desperately trying to use the ancient Egyptian Hieratic script to write words in their own semitic language. In the diagram above, notice some similarities between the letters used in the Hieratic script and the letters used in the Phoenician script (a modification of the Proto-Cannanite script).

As seen in the diagram above, the letter "O" today has not changed much since the ancient Greek alphabet and Roman alphabet copied it from the Phoenician script. The Phoenicians used the circular shape of the human eyes to represent the letter "O" (in the Phoenician language, the eye was called ayin). And the Greeks and Romans passed on the shape of the letter O onto us unchanged, unlike other letters of the Phoenician script that are quite different from the letters used in the Roman alphabet today. When the Phoenicians adopted their own alphabet from the Proto-Cannanite script circa 1,400 BC (i.e. as seen in the Serabit el-Kadem inscription), it shows a complete break from using any pictures at all, and instead simple signs are used throughout, as we now do for all our modern alphabets like the Roman, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets.

Of the three major ancient Semitic inscriptions mentioned in detail in pages 133 to 155 of Library World Records 3rd edition, viz: the Serabit el-Kadem, the Ras Shamra and the Wadi el-Hol inscriptions, Professor Orly Goldwasser of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writing in the respected journal, Biblical Archaeological Review (Spring 2010 issue), theorizes that it was the Serabit el-Kadem inscriptions or Serabit el-Kadim inscriptions (first discovered by Sir Flinders Petrie and his wife Hilda Petrie in 1905 in the Sinai Peninsula) that was modified by the Phoenicians for their own use in the Phoenician script. The article by Professor Orly Goldwasser also provides a fascinating narrative of just how the Semites (Canaanites), working in turquoise mines for the Egyptians at Serabit el-Kadem in the Sinai, had out of curiosity, began looking for a way to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics into their own Canaanite (Amorite) language, and unbeknown to them invented an alphabetic writing system whose basic concepts would still be used today.

The alphabet is in no doubt, the most important human invention after the all-important invention of agriculture circa 10,000 BC, alongside the invention of the wheel and the invention of bronze (metal) tools) to replace stone tools. Around 980 BC the Greeks are introduced to the alphabet by the Phoenicians (becoming the 5th nation to adopt an alphabetic writing system). The ancient Greeks are thus the first Western Europeans to begin to write books such as the author Homer. Later on the Greeks pass on the alphabet to the Romans (via the Etruscans) in Italy and the rest is history. You can learn more about the earliest writing systems in the world in great detail, as well as the first books and libraries in the world, in Library World Records 3rd edition pages 7 to 204.

List 124. Oldest written works from ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptian Hieratic script (and the later Demotic script) was invented after the pharoahs rightly figured out that it was just too difficult to write hieroglyphs on papyrus.

New Facts: The King Khufu Papyrus and the Great Pyramid of Egypt
On pages 139 and 190 of Library World Records 3rd edition, we learn about the famous King Khufu Papyrus. Shown on the British Channel 4 TV in early November 2017 was an amazing documentary film titled Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence. From the TV documentary we learn in great detail exactly how the Great Pyramid of Egypt, at Giza for King Khufu, (ancient Egyptian monarch of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom period), was constructed. Deciphering the famous King Khufu Papyrus was what allowed archaeologists in 2013 and 2014 to work out exactly how the Great Pyramid was built. Today the Great Pyramid at Giza is the only survivor of the famous Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. What is amazing is that despite the very ancient age of the fragile papyrus (dating from 2600 BC) today’s technology has not only allowed the papyrus to be preserved till eternity, but also accurately decipher the ancient document in great detail accurately. The King Khufu Papyrus was discovered by archaeologist Pierre Talket in 2013. He is also among the leading experts who completely deciphered the 4,000 year old document in 2016. The ancient papyrus document was written by an ancient Egyptian sailor and engineer named Merer, who with about 40 other men were in charge of bringing the stone blocks and and other tools from areas close to the River Nile to Giza, where thousands of other men worked around the clock to build the Great Pyramid. The King Khufu Papyrus (written in the ancient Egyptian Hieratic script) revealed for the first time just how the stone blocks used for the construction of the Great Pyramid were transported along River Nile using specially built ancient boats. Today you can view the famous King Khufu Papyrus at the equally famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The King Khufu Papyrus is so fragile, the papyrus is encased in an air tight enclosure, see photograph below.

In the 1st and 2nd edition of Libary World Records, one papyrus document from the ancient world stood out as the oldest surviving document written on papyrus anywhere in the world. In 2013, that world record was broken with the discovery of the King Khufu Papyrus shown above, written in the ancient Egyptian Hieratic script. Pages 139 and 190 of Library World Records 3rd edition explains more about this famous papyrus, and the previous world record holder. Image Copyright New China/Xinhua.

List 132. Oldest written works produced in Britain (from Pre-Roman times to AD 1600s).

New Facts: The Bayeux Tapestry
On pages 172 to 179 (List 132) of Library World Records 3rd edition, we are informed about the oldest written works produced in Britain. The various texts examined in great detail, span Pre-Roman and Celtic texts (before AD 43); Roman texts and inscriptions AD 43 to AD 410; Old English (Anglo-Saxon texts) from AD 400s to AD 1100 (including Futhorc runes); Middle English texts from AD 1100 to AD 1500; and Modern English texts from AD 1500 (of which the texts of William Shakespeare are the most revered). Members of the public fluent in modern English today would struggle to understand texts in Old English due to changes in grammer and spellings. But there is one famous relic sandwiched between the medieval era of the Anglo-Saxons and the very start of the Anglo-Norman era, that members of the public fluent in modern English can understand to some extent just by looking at it: The Bayeux Tapestry. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the 230 ft long Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of Duke of Normandy, William The Conqueror's invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in AD 1066. It was most likely commissioned in Kent, England, circa AD 1070s by William The Conqueror's half-brother, Bishop Odo. In the 18th century it was "rediscovered" at the Bayeux Cathedral (a Roman Catholic Church in Normandy, France). However the relic has very few texts (at least not in sufficient quantities), it is full of pictures of soldiers in battle, animals and weapons used etc and one needs to view each individual picture in the Bayeux Tapestry very carefully from start to finish, one by one, before a conclusion could be made about the fascinating story it is trying to convey. On this basis, the 950-year old Bayeux Tapestry is rightly called by English history scholars, the oldest major cartoon narrative of the Anglo-Saxon England era. In January 2018, French president Emmanuel Macron promised that British museums would be able to display the Bayeux Tapestry sometime in 2023, when it is loaned to the British people. It is currenty at a museum in Bayeux.

The Bayeux Tapestry shown above, has been called by scholars, the oldest major cartoon narrative of the Anglo-Saxon England. Image Copyright, Getty Images.

List 190. Biggest, Heaviest and Smallest Books

New Facts
On pages 212 to 214 of Library World Records 3rd edition, we are presented with a detailed list of the biggest, smallest and heaviest books in the world. If I was asked to list ten records in my new book which were the easiest to compile, I would include this list. The issue of verification is not a probem. If a printer claims they have just printed the "biggest book in the world"........... we just have to say "show us the photo". All of the biggest, smallest and heaviest books in the world listed in Library World Records 3rd edition are on display for members of the pubic to see and visually verify! The first book measure over 16 feet in height was revealed by the Mshahed International Group in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2012. The book titled Prophet Mohamed has been verified as being 16.4 feet tall and 26.44 feet wide. It has also smashed the world record for the heaviest listed in Library World Records 3rd edition: Prophet Mohamed weighs an astounishing 3,306 pounds or 1,500 kg! Due to transliteration of Arabic names to the Roman alphabet equivalent. The book Prophet Mohamed is instead called Prophet Muhammad in other sources. The book is a biography about the life and times of Islam's greatest phophet. It was written by Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Muslih, an author from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The book project was produced by Mshahed International Group based in Dubai, and funded by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the finance minister of the United Arab Emirates and deputy ruler of Dubai. No expense was spared: the book production cost an estimated $2.9 million! and needed about 53 people to help in the production and construction. It has been on display at various venues in the UAE including the Mushrif Hall in the Global Vilage, the Al-Arabi Center and the Al-Hamra Hall. It still hasn't been displayed at the biggest bookstore in Dubai: Japan's famous global Kinokuniya bookstore based inside the famous massive Dubai Mall. Extra sweetener: The Dubai Mall is right next to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world! the way, the Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall in the world by total area.

In 2012, the world record for the biggest and heaviest book in the world was smashed! You can read about the previous world record holders of the biggest and heaviest books in pages 212 to 214 of Library World Records 3rd edition. Image Copyright Arab

List 199. First author to use a typewriter

New Facts
On page 217 of Library World Records 3rd edition, we are told about very first major author anywhere in the world to use a typewriter, to type thier precious manuscript and have it published. The company that made the world's first typewriter was U.S. company called Remington in 1874. Today Remington's lasting legacy still exists on computer keyboards on every laptop, tablet, desktop computer and phone etc today: the top row of letters on all modern keyboards: QWERTYUIOP. Because of the investment in the training of first typists, the adoption of the QWERTY format by Remington and the natural reluctance of QWERTY-familiar people to change when other keyboard layouts were tested later on by Remington, QWERTYUIOP keyboard is one innovation that will be with us for a very very long time to come!

List 227. The Largest Bookstores around the World.

New Facts: Amazon Bookstore
On pages to 232 to page 246 (List 227) of Library World Records 3rd edition, I compiled an impressive list of over 200 largest bookstores worldwide in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. The splendid photographs shown in each of the 3 editions of Library World Records total over 37 photographs with Kinokuniya bookstore in Tokyo, Japan (3rd edition); and, Hugendubel bookshop in Munich, Germany (2nd edition)and Barnes & Noble bookstore in New York City, USA (1st edition), among my favourite photos of bookstores around the world. I also bring to the readers attention to curious case of Amazon. Between 1995 and 2015, the only way to buy books (and eBooks) from Amazon, was to order it online through its Amazon Kindle store. From 2016, Amazon began opening bricks and mortar stores for the first time, albeit only in the U.S. at the moment. The first store was opened obviousy in Amazon's home town of Seattle. In May 2017, Amazon opened its first brick and mortar store in the largest city in the USA: New York City. There are about 12 Amazon bookstores in the U.S. at the moment.

This is one of several Amazon bricks and mortar stores, where you can buy books as an alternative to online purchase. Image Copyright, Amazon.

World Records for Library Buildings
List 237. First library building to use extensive electrical lighting

New Facts: Electricity in Libraries
In page 252 in Library World Records 3rd edition, we learn when and how electricity was used for the first time in libraries around the world from the 1800s. Before the 1800s, lamps was the only way to illuminate a library in daytime (if the sun was low) and night time. Since lamps were filled with easily combustible gasoline or paraffin (kerosene), it is understandable why big and small libraries (with so much paper books) easily caught fire on a daily or weekly basis before the 1800s!! Other ways a library easily caught fire was excessive smoking of cigars or cigarettes in the library everyday!!!, as was common before and after the 1800s. Cigars or cigarettes have been banned in the libraries in the U.K. since 2007, following the 2006 Health Act. But some libraries took their own unilateral ban before the Act came into law.

List 238. Tallest Library Building

New Facts
On pages 252 to 253 of Library World Records 3rd edition, I listed the tallest library buildings in the world. On page 253 I also mentioned that in 2016, Guinness World Records had also given a special award to the Marriott Hotel Library in Shanghai, China. Have a guess what the award was for, OR visit page 253 in the book.

Image Copyright Agoda.

List 247. Most Fascinating Library Buildings

New Facts
On pages 258 to 287 of Library World Records 3rd edition, I once again revisited fascinating library buildings. As we may appreciate, library buildings are nowadays as fascinating as their book collections. Often the appearance of a building outside gives us some insight of what to expect inside. What really makes a library building fascinating? The size of the building, the shape of the building, the age of the building? Perhaps the architecture of the building is groundbreaking, or perhaps it is simply a very expensive building!

Back in 2003 and again in 2006 and 2014/2015 during research work for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions of the book respectively, I sent out e-mails to several Internet-based bulletin boards for librarians around the world, asking for a vote on the most fascinating library buildings in the world they had visited or seen at home or abroad. The categories voted for were:

1. Most fascinating national library buildings.
2. Most fascinating university library buildings.
3. Most fascinating public library buildings.
4. Most fascinating special library buildings.

The results for the summer 2003, summer 2006 and summer 2014/2015 votes on the most fascinating library buildings in the world, with several photographs of all the winning library buildings voted for, were published respectively in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions of Library World Records .

The 2014/2015 votes were the most diverse of the three periods of voting (votes this time were for libraries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America). There was one particular library voted repeatedly for in 2015, whose photograph arrived very very late for inclusion in the new book. It was the photograph for the votes for the famous private library of American entrepreneur Jay Walker. His magnificient library, built in 2002 is also called The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination. It has just over 51,000 books and manuscripts.

The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination is an amazing private library building. Highlights of the library building include an architectural design based on graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher’s famous staircase sketches. Entrepreneur Jay Walker was quoted as saying that he built the library "to celebrate humanity’s intellectual and emotional adventure of discovery." Warning: don't include a visit to the spectacular library for your 2018 summer holidays: his library is, sadly, not open to the public. Image Copyright Medgadget Inc.

World Records for Library Catalogs, Databases and Technology

World Records for Library and Information Science Organizations the beginning of all three editions of Library World Records , I have included three major philosophical quotes (on books or libraries) by notable people from all over the world, both past and present. I had originally found 18 different powerful quotes in my initial research back in 2002. After several hours cross referencing each quote, to ensure I had the real original author of the quote, I shortlisted 8 of them to be used for the first three editions of Library World Records. All 8 quotes will make you pause for a moment and reflect on the way books, librarians and libraries have influenced mankind in many ways directly and indirectly, such as literacy. Eight intellectuals chosen were: Francis Bacon, Marcus Cicero, Wolfgang von Goethe, Theodore Parker, Salman Rushdie, Rene Descartes, Victor Hugo and Mark Twain. To discover the exact quotes stated by each of the listed individuals above, you will need all three editions of the book!!


Last updated: 16th March 2018. Next update 23rd March 2018. Please email new data to be included here by 9pm on 22nd March.

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Copyright © 2018 Godfrey Oswald