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I DIDN’T HAVE a word for it, but I now believe I’m a book-wrapter. I learned this from Julie Lasky’s article in The New York Times, December 24, 2021, “How Many Books Does It Take to Make a Place Feel Like Home?”
Lasky’s article is about Reid Byers, author of The Private Library: The History of the Architecture and Furnishing of the Domestic Bookroom.
To quote The Washington Post: “Beautifully designed, Byers’s 500-page masterwork lays out how cultures from antiquity to the present created welcoming, comfortable spaces to house books.”
Here are tidbits from Julie Lasky’s article, together with some happy snaps of my own bookrooms’ stuff.
Why Collect Books? Lasky cites Byers: “In ‘The Private Library,’ Mr. Byers goes to the heart of why physical books continue to beguile us. Individually, they are frequently useful or delightful, but it is when books are displayed en masse that they really work wonders. Covering the walls of a room, piled up to the ceiling and exuding the breath of generations, they nourish the senses, slay boredom and relieve distress.”
The Experience. Byers says, “Entering our library should feel like easing into a hot tub, strolling into a magic store, emerging into the orchestra pit, or entering a chamber of curiosities, the club, the circus, our cabin on an outbound yacht, the house of an old friend. It is a setting forth, and it is a coming back to center.”
The Term “Book-wrapt.” Lasky says, “The fusty spelling is no affectation, but an efficient packing of meaning into a tight space (which, when you think of it, also describes many libraries). To be surrounded by books is to be held rapt in an enchanted circle and to experience the rapture of being transported to other worlds.”
How Many Books? It depends, of course, on the size of the room: Lasky says, “Mr. Byers cited a common belief that 1,000 is the minimum in any self-respecting home library. Then he quickly divided that number in half. Five hundred books ensure that a room ‘will begin to feel like a library,’ he said. And even that number is negotiable. The library he kept at the end of his bunk on an aircraft carrier in Vietnam, he said, was ‘very highly valued, though it probably didn’t have 30 books in it.’ ”
I would not offer my own bookrooms as paradigms. Some people, politely, have called them excessively eclectic.
But they certainly meet Reid Byers’s criterion: He says, “The ability to browse among your books generates something new. I like to think of it as a guaranteed cure for boredom.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022