During my recent visit to the Book Museum, here in Moscow, I’ve made a photo of a 1000-book library, exposed there. That’s just a small part of a much larger collection that was donated to the Russian State Library (it had another name at the moment) decades ago.
It made me to muse about personal libraries, expositions of libraries and so on. For my whole life I was living with many books at my side. My grandfather’s collection contains several thousand tomes (primarily Russian and world literature classics). It was almost the same at my mother’s house. My own room in father’s apartment had one and a half walls covered with bookshelves. And now I live with in-laws, who also have a lot of books.
At the same moment, during my moves from one apartment to another in the recent 15 years, every time I took less and less books with me. I had more than a 1000 sci-fi books (not accounting for the other) at some moment and gave away almost all of them. If I had to move now to a new location, I would take only a handful of books about bookbinding and book history.
I don’t really remember when it was the last time I been reading a paper book (besides bookbinding tutorials). It seems that pretty soon it will be the same for me for the reading process itself — nowadays I listen to more books than I read. Every day I have an hour-long walk to my work and I’m also using my Audible app when I’m working at my workshop — both during bookbinding sessions and while using woodworking power tools.
Anyway, that exposition at the Book Museum fulfills its purpose. It helps to get some feeling of the immensity of data stored with that codex medium. Especially when you keep in mind that Museum’s collection consists of some 350 000 books. Moreover, there are 45 000 000 books/documents in the Russian State Library that owns the Museum.
However, sometimes library expositions in museums are a sorrow spectacle. I remember my visit Archaeological Museum of Venice this summer. There you can find a reconstruction of a private library of Pisani family. It seems it was set up for only a short glance of a tourist, who’s passing through the room without a stop. All the books on the shelves are covered with a thick layer of dust. They preach only neglect and nothing else.
I didn’t initially expect this post to come that sort of a sad ending. I’ve been to many museums where books are exposed well. The aforementioned exposition at the Book Museum in Moscow is pretty nice. The Plantin Press in Atwerp, Belgium astounded me. There are many other examples that inspire, not show how the books can be neglected.
All in all, I just wanted to share these two photos of a 1000-book library with you =)
Here is how a private library with 1000 books looks like. Part of the exposition of the Book Museum in Moscow. Shelves are put there to help visitors to understand how a book collection may look like. These books are just a small part of the original collection with some 20 000 tomes. Which itself is a part of the Museum's collection of 350 000 books. And the Museum is just another division of the Russian State Library holding a collection of more than 40 000 000 items