Many modern public libraries are far from beautiful. The books within them contain expansive, intriguing worlds, but those volumes are often stored on utilitarian metal shelves that don’t lend much aesthetic value. But historically, libraries have been built as grand, palatial temples of books. “Libraries were and remain statements of prestige as well as aesthetic and architectural sophistication,” librarian and scholar Georg Ruppelt writes in an essay for The World's Most Beautiful Libraries, a new book of images by Italian photograph Massimo Listri. “These houses of knowledge have inspired secular and spiritual authorities since the Early Modern Era to devote particular attention to their design and décor.” Below are seven of the most eye-catching libraries from the book.