Insight into the Past
"...This hall is a very long rectangular space without pillars, with a box vault, well lit on its two sides. Tall ash bookcases are arranged in a circle along the walls. A bit further, a long row of bookcases are placed tightly one after the other on both sides, in the form of wings. It's like an ordinary bookstore, not especially attractive..."
Strolling through the Imperial Public Library. 1872
There is a mystical story connected with this room. The architect Vasily Sobolshchikov was very concerned about the risk of fire in the Library. In his Memoirs, we can read,
"I once dreamed that a fire occurred in the dark corner of the hall. The dream was not terrible, but I clearly remembered all the people who were at the fire and all the words they spoke. ... A few days later, I saw the same fire in my dream, and in the same corner of the hall. There was so much commotion and panic that I even woke up with anxiety ... Another week passed, and I had the same sinister nightmare, but already of horrific proportions: I saw fire fighters, the sovereign. With a cry, I jumped out of bed and, arriving at the library, went straight to the hall to examine its dark corner. The wall above the bookcase was covered in a dark layer of soot... I took apart the bookcase and ... found a gap through which fire penetrated directly under the bookcase from the chimney. The lower side of the lower shelf had already turned into coal. Any small hole might have fanned the flames. We did everything that we could to completely eliminate the danger."
As a result, 24 Dutch ovens, located between bookcases, were destroyed and replaced by more mordern equipment. Eight pneumatic ovens were arranged in the basement. They equally distributed warmth throughout the building. An innovation was also made regarding fuel. The firewood was replaced with peat, according to the new technology invented by Zubchaninov. The heating system was advanced for its time. The Imperial Public Library was the first institution to employ this system.
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