Break Down the Sets: The Library
Launch Image ViewerEstelle Daniel on the library set:
In Gormenghast, the library, the place where Lord Groan lives in his mind, was Christopher's favorite set. The idea was that it would be like a second-hand bookshop or the library of Trinity College in Dublin, where the volumes appear to go on forever, a room sculpted out of books. There are quite narrow gaps between the stacks, giving the feeling of being entirely surrounded by books and the smell of books and the look of books - a bibliophile's dream world. One reference point for authenticity was The Name of the Rose, where the books looked like real books. Our background books were very elaborately made and some of them are genuine - for instance, the great book of Groan, which is the center of the ritual. It was bound properly with immense covers which look like leather, although they were actually cast from the front of an Indian chest, borrowing its ancient textures and detail. All the pages were handwritten and water-colored in the medieval style with great gilded initial letters, so it was very grand. The aim was to make someone who loves books say, I want that.'

Christopher Hobbs on the library set:
Oddly enough, the library was not one of the modular sets. It was actually a separate set completely because, apart from anything else, it had to be burnt down so it had to have a certain sort of construction. Funny enough, actually, it's not at all like the description in the book where it's described as a long hall with columns on either side... I wanted to get the feeling -- because there is a fire-- that there was a claustrophobia to it, so that when it burnt it felt really dangerous and squeezing in on the actors.

I also love bookshops. And I wanted to get the feeling of one of those old sort of Oxford bookshops where you get towers of books going up above your head, little narrow alleyways between them, and interesting staircases going off at odd corners and galleries and so on.

I did all that, so that it was a series of shapes that, when the camera moved through it, changed angles and spaces to give the feeling that it was actually a lot bigger than it really was. It was quite big, but didn't take up a lot of floor space. It was very tall vertically, but there wasn't a huge amount of floor space.

Christopher Hobbs on filling the library's shelves:
Some of them are real books, the ones at eye level, where the camera would see they were mostly real antique books. And then we had lots of books that were made out of old wallpaper catalogs, because they were the right size and shape. When you see them edge-on you can see the rough paper, the wallpaper. We simply recovered those or painted them white or whatever to look like old vellum. They were big and they were almost incredibly cheap, because, you know, wallpaper shops throw them away. They gave us piles and piles and piles of them. Of course, in the upper areas, we just used book backs with black velvet behind.

We also cut off bits of paper and roll them up like the ends of scrolls and stuck them on the black velvet as well, so there was actually very little showing around the books. They looked as though there were scrolls and bits of papers shoved in between and above the books.

Ian Richardson, actor, on Lord Groan and the library:
The library is Groan's world, and when that library is destroyed, his world, his mind is destroyed with it.

In Peake's words:
"The room was it by a chandelier whose light, unable to reach the extremities of the room lit only the spines of those volumes on the central shelves of the long walls. A stone gallery ran round the library at about fifteen feet above the floor, and the books that lined the walls of the main hall fifteen feet below were continued upon the high shelves of the gallery.

"In the middle of the room, immediately under the light, stood a long stable. It was carved from a single piece of the blackest marble, which reflected upon its surface three of the rarest volumes in his lordship's collection. . . "

-- Titus Groan, "The Library"

"Flay had managed to find five chairs, which he placed in a line before the table. Nannie, with Titus on her lap, took up the central position. On her right, Lord Sepulchrave and on her left the Countess Gertrude sat in attitudes peculiar to them, the former with his right elbow on the arm of the chair and his chin lost in the palm of his hand, and the Countess obliterating the furniture she sat in. On her right sat the Doctor, his long legs crossed and a footling smile of anticipation on his face. At the other end of the row his sister sat with her pelvis at least a foot to the rear of an excited perpendicular -- her thorax , neck and head. Fuchsia, for whom , much to her relief, no chair was to be found, stood behind them, her hands behind her back. Between her fingers a small green handkerchief was being twisted around and around. She watched the ancient [Barquentine] take a step forward and wondered what it must feel like to be so old and wrinkled. . . ."

-- Titus Groan, "The Burning"

For more about the library, visit:
The Producer's Diary/May 24-27
Analyze a Scene: The Library Burns

 Set Design:
Kitchen | Fuchsia's Attic | Stone Corridors | Library | Graveyard

 Analyze a Scene | Costume Design | Set Design | Producer's Diary

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Behind the Scenes Analyze a Scene Costume Design Set Design Producer's Diary The Graveyard The Library The Stone Corridors Fuchsia's Attic The Kitchen