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Gail Green
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“I CANNOT LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT BOOKS” ~ JEFFERSON (Part 1)

27February13

“YOUR LIBRARY IS YOUR PARADISE” ¬†ERASMUS

I suspect that the question now is, can anyone live in a world without computers? Has the ascent of the keyboard created the demise of the physical book? Is extinction in the cards? Well, yes and no. Perhaps, for the average paperback with little provenance, this may be the case. But, not so for the rare book. In fact, I predict quite the opposite. As the book art form grows increasingly more rare, the value of rare books will appreciate.

The gentleman’s private library has always been a haven where one gleans a sense of intellectual spirituality at home. Surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, the collector sees his library as a sanctuary from the labors and toils of the day, a place where he finds serenity from the outside world - a halcyon visit to another time and place. As the collector Jack Holmes expresses, “What I find the most satisfying about being a book collector is the responsibility I am taking on by being the temporary custodian of a particular literary treasure. There are only so many copies of Johnson’s Dictionary out there, or Moby Dick, or Oliver Twist in the parts, and to own one of them is to not only to hold history in your hand (which is exciting in and of itself), but it is also to preserve that history for the future. To play a role in making sure that rare books and first editions survive is something I take seriously.” Heather O’Donnell, proprietor of¬†Honey and Wax Books, believes that “In a curious twist as ownership of the printed books becomes a choice, rather than the default option, people who’ve never thought of themselves as ‘book collectors’ increasingly catch themselves in an act that can only be described as ‘collecting books’.”

Rare books are not only investments, but they are treasures, indeed. Their provenance tells a great story, lending both intrigue and intellectual value to the tome. Who owned it, when it was printed, who printed it, where was it printed, whose binding adorns it, and whose notes annotate it - all these and more are some of the seminal questions to be asked about a rare book. Heather adroitly sums it up, “As artifacts, books communicate more than words on their pages: in type and design, materials and construction, they remind us that ours is not the only historical moment. They satisfy our desire to own and handle well-made objects, to live among them, to give each other something lasting, rather than simply clicking ’share’.”

There are several important characteristics to be considered in designing a rare book library. As a designer, the most prominent categories are the room’s lighting, air quality, cabinetry (shelving), finishes, and overall architectural plan. As the book becomes a more arcane form, these specific conditions will define and determine the longevity of the collection. If there is one characteristic to which rare books respond, it is to the stability, consistency, and beauty of their environment.

Check back for more detail on each of these prominent categories!


Filed under: Design

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