I can spend hours looking at books. Absorbing the clever titles (My Lady of the Fog, mysterious, Their Yesterdays, intriguing), unique bindings (oh for a whole set of Louisa May Alcott’s books with those beautiful spines!), unusual author names (doesn’t Mrs. Molesworth just sound like a delightful writer?!), and that old familiar scent of slightly musty, dusty volumes of bound matter and printed ink. Whether it’s a whole used book store full, an overwhelmingly full library sale, or my friend’s bookshelf, I am instantly engrossed.
And though it lacks that delightful aroma, I have found yet another way to enjoy the libraries of others: HouseBeautiful’s Decorating with Books by Marie Proeller Hueston. My friend Melinda recently mentioned having read it, and I couldn’t pass up a book about books! Ever since we picked it up from the library, my husband and I have been drooling over the photographs of bookshelf after bookshelf, volume after volume. Some rooms were just our style–in fact, I’d take three or four of their shelves anywhere in my house. Other personal libraries were much too modern for my taste, and yet I could still spot a volume or two I’d like to have. The picture of the office with wallpaper that created the illusion of rows of books had me going until I read the caption. I even learned a new word–tome! (Look it up–that’s what dictionaries are for.)
“If you go into a room and find it full of books–even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.”
-former British Prime Minister William Gladstone
After reading the description of one man’s extensive library of 500 linear feet of books, I had to measure our own collection. Merritt’s guess was much too high (he was still trying to figure out why I’d been measuring our books in the first place), but we have around 80 linear feet of books in our own little library. According to Decorating with Books, approximately eight to twelve average hardcover books will fill each linear foot of shelving. But it didn’t give an approximation for childrens’ books, of which we have many.
While I didn’t find any new ideas for actually decorating with my books, as my space is more limited than many of the spacious rooms in the book, just looking through Decorating with Books was as asthetically delightful as it was literary. If you can convince your library to order a copy for you as I did mine, you’ll find such a unique assortment of personal libraries that there has to be one that suits you and your books. Now I’d like to find a book on old, old libraries…
“You’d rather have [old books] with all their germs and dust than the soulless tomes of uncut pages. You can judge people pretty well by their books, and the wear and tear of them.”
-Elsie de Wolfe, The House in Good Taste, 1913