"With few books, but learned/I live in conversation with the dead/ And I listen to the deceased with my eyes" - Francisco de Quevedo.
"[Writing is] great, very great, in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space." - Abraham Lincoln
"Some people are fond of horses, others of wild animals; in my case, I have been possessed since childhood by a prodigious desire to buy and own books." - Julian The Apostate
"Libraries, like museums, are a refuge from old age, sickness and death." - Jean Grenier....and many more.
One of my favorite parts of this slim volume, are the pages detailing the challenge of organizing 40,000 volumes. He starts by describing Georges Perec's attempt at categorizing books, which Perec said could be done by:
by continent or country
by date of acquisition
by date of publication
by literary period
by frequency of consultation
Bonnet categorizes his massive library by literature, non-fiction, and then the arts. And within each genre he has it broken down into sub-genres (e.g., literature is then subdivided by language; art is divided into music, cinema, photography, etc). But he spends many pages ruminating over the challenges categorizing so many books and the myriad of ways one may go about doing so. Each to their own is his essential message, but best of luck if you have thousands of volumes to get in order.
Phantoms On The Bookshelves is a great read. If you own lots of books, or someday wish to build your own impressive library, Bonnet will certainly leave your mouth watering. Bonnet is a Frenchman, and many of the works he mentions are foreign works, most of which I've never heard of. Not that they may not be excellent reads, but I suggest you bring a pencil and paper to write down the many titles he names and look them up later and see if any interest you.
|A portion of my library on the living room floor in 2008|