Edmund walked out onto the fifth-floor landing, and leaned out over the railing, looking down the spinning dizzying architecture to the floors below. It was intoxicating, seeing all these words cramped together so tightly in such a large space. In the orphanage, Edmund had never seen more than ten or twelve books together at once. Here there had to have been thousands at least, all arranged in a dazzling array of line and verse. Edmund tried to imagine reading those words, each and every one, before he died. He wasn’t sure how it would be possible–It must have taken the lifetimes of hundreds of people to write the words, one person alone could not hope to read them all.
As if in a dream, he slowly realized he needed to find a way down to the different floors. He looked around until he saw the thin iron staircase that dipped its way towards the closest fourth-floor landing. He tried to walk slowly, but it felt like he was running pell-mell down the stairs, barely touching the black iron railing as he went. His hand reached out as he flew, brushing the old dry leather of books as he passed, gently caressing the wooden handles of ancient scrolls, and tapping the deep brown wood of the shelves wherever he could reach them.
The entire cylindrical library was filled with alcoves; small curving indentations that held statues, strange curving bookshelves, small tables and chairs, or sometimes all three. There was a bronze gaslight stuck into the wall in each alcove, and though none of them were lit, they were small, and Edmund could guess they would not provide much light to the library when the day was done.
The second floor had a large balcony that almost reached to the brass tree, with several large tables, candelabras, chairs, settees, and even a tall side table that held a long thin pipe next to a thick plush chair; the perfect place to sit and read.
Each shelf was more marvelous than the last, and each floor developed its own personality. One floor was all large and yellow, full of rolled up maps and giant atlases, covered with different lands and tales of faraway kings and queens. The edges of the pages and scrolls were chipped, and crisp, like stale pie crust. The next floor was full of slick white paper, waxed and bound with thick covers, all the books almost the exact same size. Another was dark brown and black with cracked leather, intermixed with deep greens and blues that covered books of every shape and size.
There were books of science and mysteries of the world, and histories of old kings and queens. There were books of poetry and theatre, stories of romance and drama. One shelf was so packed full of thick green-bound books with gold trim, they were as firm as bricks in any wall. He found seven different books all about Camelot, including The Epic of King Arthur, and yes, one shelf even had a thick red book titled Poetry of the Heart by Alam Beets, with the same cover as the one he had left behind at the Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies. It even smelled the same.