There are few places in the world, which I have visited because of one pictures I have seen of it. Such a place is the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura. A colonial library in the centre of Rio. A couple of years ago I was intrigued by a massive grand format picture from Andreas Gursky. He is one of the most famous photographers of our time, he surely is the most expensive one. His technique is to manipulate and enlarge pictures. His topic is the gathering of large groups and the enhancements of architectonic structures. He also chose the Gabinete as a sujet and that was, why I went there.
Telling from the picture I thought this library must be gigantic. It is not! There are three storeys, and one grand room on the bottom. It still functions as a assembling room and as a historic library. The origin of the library is in the 1830s, as Portuguese immigrants and political refugees founded a meeting point for the intelligentsia. The Neo-Manueline style building is from the 1880s. So the architecture itself is a very impressive colonial beauty-spot.
I my opinion this must have been the most silent library I have ever visited. This is of interest for a photographer, because taking the loudest machines with you surely makes you the jackass, who is beaten and thrown out the place. Even advancing the film on my LC-A+ was so disturbing that I rather took my panoramic camera instead.
Besides Andreas Gursky only the workers of the library are allowed to go on the higher floors to pick the books that are demanded by the students. Your options to take a photograph are reduced to the ground floor. But it is exciting and colorful. All these ancient books and such a great conditions, lined up and piled on historic shelf’s: wow! I have a feeling, that this place is still a gem for the individual traveler, there isn’t even an English Wikipedia-entry. You will find the Gabinete in Rua Luis de Camoes in a part of Rio called Centro. It is right in between the two Metro stops Uruguiana and Carioca. I would recommend a visit especially when it I a rainy day and you can’t do anything outside.