The Library of Babel

The Library of Babel

The Library of Babel, illustrated by Eric Desmazières.

The Universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.

Jorge Luis Borges’s vision of the infinite library has captivated imagination since its first publication in 1941. It has been frequently reprinted, referenced, and reimagined in subsequent publications. My small collection of the Library of Babel consists of English-language translations, usually with illustrations. The collection started with the edition printed in 2000, translated by Andrew Hurley and with etchings by Eric Desmazières. 1. Borges, Jorge Luis. The Library of Babel. Boston: David R. Godine, 2000. Desmazières’ stunningly detailed illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to the text by Borges. Although they do not follow the exact description of the hexagonal library, they somehow capture the essence of the place in all its dizzying beauty and infinity.


2. Borges, Jorge Luis. The Library of Babel. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Macalester College, 1988.

The Library of Babel, published by Macalester College, 1988

The Library of Babel, published by Macalester College, 1988.

This bilingual edition includes an English translation by Anthony Kerrigan and an original woodcut illustration by Jerry J. Rudquist. It was published in a limited edition of 250 copies on the occasion of the dedication of the Macalester College Library, September 17, 1988.


3. Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones. Franklin Center, Pennsylvania: Franklin Library, 1985. This limited edition of Ficciones, edited by Anthony Kerrigan and illustrated by Roger Roth, includes “The Library of Babel” on pp. 67-76.

The Franklin Library edition of Ficciones

The Franklin Library edition of Ficciones.

"The Library of Babel," in Ficciones by The Franklin Library.

“The Library of Babel,” in Ficciones by The Franklin Library.


4. Borges, Jorge Luis. The Secret Books. Leetes Island Books, 1999. This collection of three stories and several poems by Jorge Luis Borges is illustrated with black-and-white photographs by Sean Kernan. 

The Secret Books, photographs by Sean Kernan.

The Secret Books, photographs by Sean Kernan.

"The Library of Babel," in The Secret Books.

“The Library of Babel,” in The Secret Books.


5. The Library of Babel: In and Out of Place. London: Zabludowicz Collection, 2010. This book is the catalog of an exhibit that was on display at the Zabludowicz Collection in London in 2010. Borges’ “The Library of Babel” served as the conceptual background for this exhibit, which included more than 200 works. The catalog reprints the text of “The Library of Babel” from Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, translation by James E. Irby.

"The Library of Babel" in The Library of Babel: In and Out of Place.

“The Library of Babel” in The Library of Babel: In and Out of Place.

The Library of Babel: In and Out of Place, by the Zabludowicz Collection.

The Library of Babel: In and Out of Place, by the Zabludowicz Collection.


6. Magic & Madness in the Library, edited by Eric Graeber. Delhi, New York: Birch Brook Press, 1999. This anthology of fictional works about libraries, illustrated with wood engravings by Frank C. Eckmair, includes “The Library of Babel” on pp. 75-83.

"The Library of Babel," in Magic & Madness in the Library.

“The Library of Babel,” in Magic & Madness in the Library.

Magic & Madness in the Library, edited by Eric Graeber.

Magic & Madness in the Library, edited by Eric Graeber.

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