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So, I know about the Citadel in Old Town, which is like Grand Maester Station, and has a massive library.

But I am interested in mentions of libraries throughout the books. Especially the Red Keep in King's Landing. Since the books are more detailed, let's stick with those rather than the TV series.

Libraries/collections of books I recall mentioned:

Asha's Uncle has one.

Winterfell's library catches fire.

Old Town's of course.

Vaguely recall the Highgarden library mentioned but uncertain.

Are there any other mentions, not of individual books, but actual collections?

  • 4
    +1 Immediately for Grand Maester Station :-D Also if you want books and not TV show you need to use the ASoIaF tag no GoT – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 18:55
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    I know Castle Black has one, (Sam spends most of his time there before he is sent from the wall). – onewho Sep 6 '17 at 18:56
  • Now there's no way people can complain about spoilers here! – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:32
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    @Sekhemty, I've rejected your edit, because Erin Thursby makes no effort to suggest he only wants Westerosi Libraries, and we have reason to believe Volantis had one (and Valyria most likely did too) – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:49
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    I used "Westeros" with the meaning of "the world created by Martin for his books" rather than the actual continent, in order to make the title clearer in scope, but you are totally right. – Sekhemty Sep 6 '17 at 21:59
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I have listed all the Castle's and forts explicitly stated as having a library, however from the wealth of libraries we see, we can suppose every major house had a library and most likely (considering the Nightfort has one) most minor houses had libraries to keep their Maesters busy.

From a quote below, we learn from Sam that Castle Black's library of thousands of books is much larger than any has seen before, Jon confirms that Winterfell had "more than a hundred". We can assume Jon to have been more inclined with his sword fighting than reading in his youth and may not have ever known an exact number, however this still suggest that the libraries of lesser houses contained fewer books, possibly less than a hundred.

Castle Black

Castle Black had a library where Sam spent much of his time at the wall, he was sent there to help Maester Aemon and to provide for him. This is where he tried to figure out how he killed the White Walker, before going off to the Citadel.

“Truly. I’m to assist Maester Aemon with the library and the birds. He needs someone who can read and write letters.”
A Game of Thrones - Jon VI

The Castle had a large library, of thousands of books, larger than Winterfell and we can only suppose larger than any of the Castles Samwell visited as a child.

Sam yawned. "Maester Aemon sent me to find maps for the Lord Commander. I never thought . . . Jon, the books, have you ever seen their like? There are thousands!" He gazed about him. "The library at Winterfell has more than a hundred. Did you find the maps?"
A Clash of Kings - Jon I

Nightfort

Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor found a Library among many other things in the ruins that were left of the Nightfort, although there were no books left and the shelves had collapsed

“ They found a library (the shelves and bins had collapsed, the books were gone, and rats were everywhere).”
A Storm of Swords - Bran IV

Winterfell

Winterfell had the Library Tower the Library Tower was burnt down during the attempt on Bran's life to serve as a distraction

Somewhere in the great stone maze of Winterfell, a wolf howled. The sound hung over the castle like a flag of mourning. Tyrion Lannister looked up from his books and shivered, though the library was snug and warm.
A Game of Thrones - Tyrion I

Fire, she thought, and then, Bran! “Help me,” she said urgently, sitting up. “Help me with Bran.” Robb did not seem to hear her. “The library tower’s on fire,” he said.
A Game of Thrones - Catelyn III

Oldtown

This is where the Maesters were trained in the knowledges and arts of the world and housed the greatest Library in Westeros.

The old man remained an archmaester only by courtesy. As great a maester as once he’d been, now his robes concealed soiled smallclothes oft as not, and half a year ago some acolytes found him weeping in the Library, unable to find his way back to his chambers.
A Feast for Crows - Prologue

Red Keep

The Red Keep's library was mentioned in A Storm of Swords, Tyrion could be found reading histories there, and Septon Barth, was taken from it's Library by the Old King to become Hand of the King.

“Against this, you have Septon Barth, the blacksmith’s son the Old King plucked from the Red Keep’s library, who gave the realm forty years of peace and plenty.” Pylos smiled. “Read your history, Lord Davos, and you will see that your doubts are groundless.”
A Storm of Swords - Davos V

He was the son of a common blacksmith and had been given to the Faith while young. But his brilliance made itself known, and in time he came to serve in the library at the Red Keep, tending the king's books and records.
A World of Ice and Fire - The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I

Ten Towers

Asha's "Nuncle" Lord Rodrik Harlaw kept a Library and was known as The Reader, he was fond of his books and permited no food or drink in his Library.

Lord Rodrik pursed his lips. “You know I do not permit food nor drink in my library. The books—”
“—might suffer harm.” Asha laughed.
A Feast for Crows - The Kraken's Daughter

Old Volantis

Keen for a History of Volantis Tyrion, an avid reader, supposed there must be a library in Old Volantis which would have a complete copy of The Fires of the Freehold.

What he really wanted was the complete text of The Fires of the Freehold, Galendro’s history of Valyria. No complete copy was known to Westeros, however; even the Citadel’s lacked twenty-seven scrolls. They must have a library in Old Volantis, surely. I may find a better copy there, if I can find a way inside the Black Walls to the city’s heart.
A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion IV

Horn Hill

There was a Library at Horn Hill, seat of Lord Randyll Tarly, Sam is known to have read every book in the library

Jon glanced warily at Chett, standing beside the door, his boils red and angry. “He could help you,” he said quickly. “He can do sums, and he knows how to read and write. I know Chett can’t read, and Clydas has weak eyes. Sam read every book in his father’s library.”
A Game of Thrones - Jon V

Solosh

In the City of Scholars, there was a "great library" which housed a large portion of the history of the Tall Men.

Sallosh by the Silver Shore, City of Scholars, with its vast library and Painted Walls.
A World of Ice and Fire - Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands

For scholars and students of history, the fall of Sallosh by the Silver Shore was especially tragic, for when that City of Scholars burned, its great library was not spared, and most of the history of the Tall Men and the peoples who had gone before them were lost for all time.
ibid.

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    I'm amazed at how you guys can give clear, detailed and referenced answers almost immediately after the question was asked. This leaves us "normal" geeks nothing to do except upvoting :) – Sekhemty Sep 6 '17 at 19:18
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    @Sekhemty Google is a friend, software is another, not having a life is a third :) – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 19:24
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    Salosh, City of Scholars had a vast library, which burned down in a fire – Möoz Sep 7 '17 at 3:28
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    @Sekhemty You may be interested in asearchoficeandfire.com – Möoz Sep 7 '17 at 3:29
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    What, that exists?! – Edlothiad Sep 7 '17 at 4:41
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Disclaimer: this is just speculation from me, there are not (necessarily) explicit references in the books.


Probably every Noble House possessed some books used by their Maesters.

We can speculate that almost every House, surely all the Great ones but maybe also the most important of the Minors, kept at least a small collection of books, if not a proper library, in their home castles.

We know that every Major House employs the services of a Maester from the Citadel, whose main duties were of a teacher, a medic, a keeper of the ravens, an astronomer, and generally being an advisor about economics, warfare, and everything else that was related to knowledge.
Shortly, they were generally scholars and savants, not specialized on a single discipline but resembling more a polymath from our own Renaissance.

Every Maester very probably required books to do their work.

As we know from their collars, Maesters were required to master many different subjects, and when they left the Citadel to serve on the keep of their new lords, very probably they needed a (large or small) selection of books to use as an aid and reference to carry out their duties. According to what we know of their work, we can suppose that this set of books comprised text about:

  • Astronomy
  • Medicine
  • Zoology and Biology (for the Ravens, but not only)
  • Economy
  • History
  • Warcraft
  • Genealogy and Heraldry
  • Grammar and general literacy

Probably, great libraries were very rare.

We know that in Westeros books were not printed (movable type was not invented) but they had to be written and copied by hand.
This made books a relatively rare commodity, so if we can suppose that the most common books, those that we can compare to the "handbooks" and "manuals" that Maesters used for their work were fairly widespread (maybe an apprentice was required to copy some of these to carry with him, if he was sent to a House that did not possess that particular book?), other works (the most specialized ones, concerning more pure research and scholarly knowledge, and less about common "everyday" subjects for a Maester) were surely available in fewer copies and only in the greatest and most important libraries. When you have to copy by hand a whole tome, you must be selective about which books are a priority.

Being books not so common, the logical consequence is that even libraries are relatively rare, and great ones even more.

Literacy seems to be widespread about the Nobles of Westeros.

Almost every main character of the series is a Noble of some sort, and we see that almost all of them can read and write without too much hassle, not just the most bookish ones (i.e. Samwell and Tyrion). The only illiterate is Ser Davos Seaworth, that seems to be the exception to the norm.
To be literate you need books, in order to learn to read. This reinforce the hypothesis that at least a small collection of books (or a small library, however you want to call it) was available to every Noble House, or at least the most important ones; since fostering children to other families was a common custom, probably the smallest Houses, those that could not afford to maintain a small library themselves, solved the problem by sending them to be raised where books were available.


Summarizing, we can suppose that almost every Noble House kept at least a small library to be used mainly by their Maesters to perform their duties, and to educate their children.

  • Btw, Ser Davos Seaworth was from Fleabottom, that's most likely why he can't read. But great answer, a great summary of what I couldn't or was too lazy to provide. Wouldn't be surprised if this became the top answer! – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:46
  • Yes, I used him as the only example that I could recall of an illiterate nobleman; he was taught by Shireen, that explains a lot. Anyway, like I said, these are just speculations, the OP asked by references in the books, that you correctly provided. – Sekhemty Sep 6 '17 at 20:51
  • Speculations based on reasonable evidence from the books is still a good answer. They don't necessarily need all the quotes! – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:52
  • I figured since every house/castle that's worthwhile has a Maester, they likely all have a library in some form or another. This is a good summary, however, so +1, but I was looking for the specific mentions. I know books are prestige items in the world, and many in-universe books and stories are mentioned, but specific references to libraries are few and in passing for the most part. – Erin Thursby Sep 7 '17 at 16:20
  • @ErinThursby Yes, my answer was meant more as complementary to the one from Edlothiad, that correclty pointed out explicit references as you requested; however I thought that my speculations could be useful too :) – Sekhemty Sep 12 '17 at 15:57

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