Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

The ideal library

Now that I've built (in my head) a replica of a library to live in - see last post - with what shall I stock it? I've got a few thousand books, but not enough to fill an actual library. Yet. I've always wondered what it would be like to be one of those people who builds libraries for non-readers. For show. Like a personal shopper, kind of, but just for books. I used to sell monumental leatherbound sets to these folks - interior decorators, essentially - for clients of theirs who wanted "an old-fashioned library-looking library." Think merrie olde England and the National Trust estate libraries of yesteryear, delicious rows of gleaming gilded morocco bindings, in colors which match the panelling (and perhaps the few muted fox-hunting prints). I say I used to sell these sets, because I can't find them anymore, or if I do, it's by dumb luck.

Anyway, that wasn't the purpose of this post, which was to daydream for a while about what I'd move in to my very own library, when the shelving magically expands to the size of the whole house. Of course I'd start with the coveted capital-initials-sets: the DNB and the OED. And naturally, the large-paper version of the 11th edition Britannica (I had a set once, bound in maroon leather, but caved to the pressure of its immense size, and sold it). And I'm still dreaming about the Yale edition of Horace Walpole's correspondence, huge lovely blue volumes (45 of them?). Finding a set (an affordable set would be even better) is one of my holy grail quests. From time to time I visit a set in a nearby library, but it's not the same. Walpole's gossipy, warm, sometimes catty letters are the best of the eighteenth century, and he knew simply everyone. Wonderful browsing. What else - the complete works of Trollope is not on my list - but it's coming to mind because I have two Trollope-obsessed customers trying to build complete collections, and it's been fun to go along for the ride, vicariously. The only other huge set I'd want, I already have - the Scribner Robert Louis Stevenson (24 or 26 vols.?, with his collected letters in two more vols.) - but, come to think of it, I'd also like the Haverford edition of the works of Christopher Morley, 12 vols., published when he was still young and had lots of writing ahead of him yet. Volume one in this set is always autographed, in case anyone sees it anywhere. Oh, another set - The Book-Lover's Library, edited by Henry B. Wheatley, 1880s. I have a few odd volumes and would love the whole thing.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my book-culling project has completely stalled out. I have culled exactly zero books from my collection at home. Instead I've been reading the evenings away. And craving more bookshelf space, hence this self-indulgent post. Ryan returns on Saturday, and I'm going shopping tonight - baby needs a new pair of shoes - so my virtuous plan to cull from my library this week is essentially dead in the water. So much for virtuous plans.

I'll be in the shop tomorrow, then will be closed for the next ten days for another vacation - I know, I know, I've been hearing it (How does that girl expect to make a living! Answer: I'm a bookseller, I don't expect to). I'll be painting this time, with a small group of artists, at a friend's house on Islesboro. Talk about self-indulgent. I'll probably post again tomorrow, then will be computer-less for the duration. I have no book lists to keep people occupied this time, so I hope folks will check back in on their own - thanks for reading, and of course I want to hear what people would love to have in their own Ideal Libraries. The works of Charles Darwin, all first editions? A complete run of Camera Work? A few First Folios?? Go crazy!

Comments:
A complete set of Jane Austen, all first editions! That was easy.

Love your idea of building and moving into a library.

Have a lovely week painting on Islesboro.
 
A set of Harvard Classics? The complete Modern Library? Oh, I know: every state guide published by the WPA. Everything published by the WPA, for that matter.
 
Austen, yes indeed. I second that. Thanks Vicky - perhaps I will have pictures of paintings to share when I return. Never assume, however - we don't want to frighten away the painting muse! (She startles easily.)

Oooh, the complete Modern Library! I'd like the old ones, with the numbered spines on the dust jackets (though then I'd be torn between numerical/alphabetical - a shelving dilemma). And the WPA, I hadn't even thought of that. I've had many collectors ask me for the states series, I have a few from time to time (I have Washington, D.C. at the moment, and Massachusetts, but the state map is missing).

I forgot to mention - there's a book barn on Islesboro...
 
Hi S. I've several books on building a house around a library...I'll share the next time I see you.

Also, I have a lovely early set of Austen for you. Talk soon and very best,.ijk
 
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