Private libraries and kleptobibliophilia

“Bibliothecae” – library or collection of books.  Kleptobibliophile – sadly not a real word but one that appears in the Wikipedia entry on Private Libraries, and a great way to describe some of the collection habits in the past.

Many descriptions on the topic focus on the titles of the books kept in famous libraries.  More modern individuals have looked at the “proper” collection of titles which should be in any respectable private library, such as Charles William Eliot’s “five-foot shelf” of 51 essential volumes.

Harvard classics 'five foot shelf' - from Pseudo Intellectual Reviews blog

Harvard classics ‘five foot shelf’ – from Pseudo Intellectual Reviews blog

I’d love to research the other elements of the library.  What catalogue system, if any, is used?  Chair or armchair? Where to put the pipe and whiskey glass?  Reading simply for pleasure or was the note-taking an essential part of keeping the collection, with all the associated trappings – desk, pens, index cards, etc etc.?  Sounds like a great private research project but not sure if I should start first with the whiskey or the armchair critique.

Here’s some pictures, below, that I took at Ewelme Cottage, in Auckland New Zealand – a historical building once owned by the family of Reverend Vicesimus Lush.

Personally, I have felt looking at these libraries puts you in the frame of mind of the owner so much more than any other part of the houses.  A kitchen can be set up with antique equipment of the day, but a library is personalised to an extent that any other area isn’t.  They have done a great job with Ewelme Cottage here, in maintaining the study like it had been all those years ago.  You can just imagine Rev Lush has just stepped out and is coming back soon to flick through some of his books and compose a letter.

Ewelme Cottage - private study

Ewelme cottage - private study



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