Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mad about the books

The Reading Room, now turned into an inert monumentWith my love of reading, long life, tendency to hang out in libraries wherever I go, delight in the detective challenge of research, and tactile pleasure in books (I used to randomly search old bookshops with my dad at the weekend) – I ended up working in a library, with access to The Stacks (soon to move into another building – sigh) and functioning as an unofficial Archivist/Researcher for the Forum I spend most my free time in, at the Maybe Logic Academy.

One of my fellow students there sent me this link to ‘hot library smut’ (pictures of some of the finest libraries on the planet). I used to sit in the old British Library Reading Room with the ghosts of Darwin, Karl Marx, and so many others…thinking that the high dome got made to allow room for the ‘great thoughts’ hovering over people’s heads.

The link came from an intriguing blog called The Nonist. I roamed on from there to a wonderful essay on Arranging Books by Colour...which included this:
Georges Perec and familiar friend

My library is, to borrow from Georges Perec, "a sum of books constituted by a non-professional reader for his own pleasure and daily use." Perec's definition comes from a wonderful essay of his titled, "Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One's Books", and includes such other quotables as "The problem of the library is shown to be twofold: a problem of space first of all, then a problem of order." I am well aware of both.

I remember how Penguin paperbacks had colour coded covers, in my childhood, and later I came across one German publisher, whose name escapes me, who used a spectrum of rainbow covers, and the shelves looked quite beautiful in the bookshops. Perec, however, liked the idea of books getting brought together that would not normally sit alongside each other.
My main shelf in the den

The central issue, as Perec warms us, is that "None of these classifications systems is satisfactory by itself," and he is right. But one idea from his list, "ordering by colour," seems to be gathering a small following of late, particularly among the visually-inclined.


Chris Hughes said...

There was a 'Two Ronnies' sketch about a library where the books were arranged by size and colour///

Toby said...

Ah, I missed that one, Chris.

I'd love to track it down, but I don't know where to search for sketches...

Nerf-Herders Anonymous said...

The Two Ronnies, YES! The Library.

I'm guilty of arranging some of my books by color, but only those I have used in small vignettes around the house, not on my actual bookshelves.

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