My study at the University of New England had an entire wall of bookshelves behind me, and a large bookshelf on the other wall facing me.
I occupied that same room for thirty-one years. Several times I was offered more spacious accommodation but I declined, because I quailed at the thought of transferring decades of books, journals and other archives anywhere else.
Besides, that was my room, and everyone, including decades' worth of past external students who came to call on me when in town knew where I was.
The problem came when I retired. This is not a big house. I already had a library here of English literature, classics and European history; two bookcases, one very large and of necessity, two layers deep. Tracey had her history, religion studies and law books in another large bookcase.
What was going to happen to my professional library when I left the university? I made a decision. Well, we did. We would buy one more bookcase, and whatever couldn't fit in that from my university office had to go. Ninety percent of my library.
Would you like a peek at the shelves at what remains from my cruelly culled 'work' collection? This isn't all that I was able to salvage, but it's most. You won't be able to read all the titles of course, not that you'd want to, but let me show you a glimpse of what's left. These are my (mainly Asian) treasures – the ones I can't part with while I'm alive.
They are out of order just enough to be comfortable (books having been taken out and put back in the wrong place), and I apologise to Professor Wu for leaving him upside-down.
The last two pictures, up to Coomaraswami's wonderful The Dance of Shiva, are of ones I've written, edited or have chapters or articles in. If you're wondering why some are stacked horizontally, it's that more of the smaller books can fit. Of course, the one I want is always on the bottom. That variation on Murphy's Law strikes again.
That's still a great collection!It mirrors many of my favourites that 'clutter' our house too as arguably the most precious objects:) What happened to the other 90% though? Wish I'd known, if you were selling them!!ReplyDelete
No news is good news today, so I trust that is how it remains.
You've got most of them already, Julie!Delete
PS Is that "Tantric Art' book by Ajit Mukherjee? I can't quite decipher the spine. You can't buy it anymore.ReplyDelete
oh my mistake -your book is called "Asiatic ART".Delete
If you really mean Asiatic Art as in Asiatic Art In The Seattle Art Museum it's by Henry Trubner et al. Seattle has a wonderful collection of Asiatic Art, but that's not surprising considering Seattle itself has a lot of connections to East Asia.Delete
Tantric Art is of course by Ajit Mukherjee.Delete
I see 'A Handbook of Living Religions' gets two slots. Hope it's not like the manual for my car; which is to say, the first time it has to be used is just before I trade it for a new one.ReplyDelete
Fingers crossed and all that. And much more as well.
:) You'll see a couple of duplicates. I always preferred Huston Smith's The World's Religions as a good start to comparative religions, but religion is definitely something you need more than a manual for. You have to drive the car....Delete
You seem to have done pretty well in your selection, Dennis. We faced the same situation when downsizing last year ... 2500 books but room only for 500. We selected the cream from a wide range of interests, sold a few for a song to dealers, a lot more on a garage sale at around 25 cents, a few boxes to charities, and still wound up with a full trailer load to take to the tip. We still have our favourites, and now ebooks, the Internet and the public library fill the gaps. The rock collection went too, along with the Teddy bears, pictures, ornaments, an under-house wonderland of things accumulated over a lifetime ‘that might come in useful’ (but rarely did), and a heap of memories that linked us to the past. Heartbreaking but, in a way, liberating. A Buddhist philosophy helped accept the loss. Funnily now, having owned, and abandoned, so much, it is hard to think of anything I want for my birthday.ReplyDelete
The crying shame is that dealers buy by the kilo. The books I spent a week's wages on at Teacher's College you couldn't give away now, even though some classics are timeless. I do understand what you mean about liberating and heartbreaking. I know most of them I'll never open again. We kid ourselves if we think that. It's the sheer joy of possession of our past along with what's in them.Delete
I, as a Uni computing lecturer, was always in awe of my colleague's book walls. Mine was a single shelf!ReplyDelete
Even then (now MS is my excuse) I found books hard physically to handle and hard mentally to ingest. What kind of academic was I? The one word answer is "wired" - I love the online access to the stuff I have needed to read.
PS My mental ingestion block is with non-fiction books. I devour fictionDelete
It's quality, not quantity. As a youth I wanted acres of books because it looked impressive to me. Perhaps it did impress some undergrads. So I collected all sorts of things, often rubbish, which I discarded as I got older, and replaced with books that I had read properly.Delete
You make me wonder if the regulation heaps of books on academic bookshelves are there simply as a form of assertion of authority, sometimes to supplement power or cover insecurity by 'shock and awe'?
I have no problem with either fiction/non-fiction, but can understand the novel's appeal. It allows an author to investigate the nature of something without pretending to create dogma. That's why myths are so powerful and so vital. They can't be turned into a cold slab to be martyred upon.
These are glorious photos Denis. Says so much of who you are deep in your bones. I have always secretly (secret's out now!)loved perusing the titles on other people's bookshelves - like a short-cut to their inner worlds and to understanding where they are coming from.ReplyDelete
We had a harsh experience recently when we were working out what to do with our 1977 complete set of the World Book Encyclopedia. I had bought it when my first of four babies was a toddler, and I was really quite poor. Took me ages to pay it off but felt I was doing something for my child's future. (Later, also similarly bought beautiful set of Encyclopedia Britannica whilst in "reduced circumstances".) Our small village library was not interested - they already had several sets! I have since tried to find a family to donate them to - no one at all interested. Heartbreaking reality about the world in which we find ourselves.
The simple fact is that all encyclopedic works in print form are obsolete on the day they are published. True, they are full of wonderful information on many things; information that doesn't change [too much!] with time. But now they are more objects of history than anything else – information which represents a slice in time. Social comment on their day.Delete
You can read those from 150 years ago on Gutenberg.com. That's why they're there – not for the information but on what people of the time thought was as near to the truth as they could get, and also for what they didn't know, because what you don't know, or your starting point, drives you just as much as what what you do.
Second simple fact is that no-one wants to use them any more. They want online information for various reasons I won't go into and you probably know. I won't use them either.
The last few articles I published, on women and child trafficking, and women's labour in Asia appeared in print form without my having read a book specifically for them and without a single handwritten note. This is just a statement of fact. Sure, I had established a basis for assessing that online data over many years of reading specialist books by learned researchers,and this is vital. But reading and research methods are changing dramatically, as newspapers have found, often to the horror of their proprietors.
Your Britannicas will end up on the tip, not occupying a bookcase. When the whole thing can be loaded on a chip the size of a pinhead, which is right now, that's their fate.
What we grieve over is what we invested in them, and the pleasure they gave us one way or the other in print form. There's no grieving over the content.
Yes..."What we grieve over is what we invested in them, and the pleasure they gave us one way or the other..". I am not usually one to indulge in nostalgia - I prefer to live in the present - but putting your finger on it in the way you have here, Denis - and to recognise the grief and loss experienced as the familiar world of my youth fades away - is a poignant perspective to mull over.Delete
Perhaps those handsome, untouched-for-decades Britannicas way up high there on our bookshelves, will come down next week and put in the recycle bin, whilst Dave is in restorative rehab. Now - that's a liberating thought.....shelf-space!!
Maybe as one last gesture you should put them outside your fence with a FREE TO GOOD HOME placard on them. What's the worst that could happen?Delete