When my studio construction gets finished to a workable state, I intend to house my personal library in there. Although that state is not imminent, I’ve been thinking about culling the many books I have.
I’ve been thinking about my emotional attachment to my books. In fact, since the death of my husband, Alberto, I’ve been thinking about my attachment to other goods and chattels but that is a different story.
Each book I own has its own story other than the story or content in and of itself. Its own story is how it came into my possession, and whether it had a life before finding a home in my hands, in my consciousness, and on my bookshelves.
I say each book I own but that is not strictly true, for each book had it’s time of owning me and some still do. Books are like that, they have certain qualities that are not all the same but that are definitely common to each other, while some have qualities that set them apart from the others.
New books, and second-hand books. The term second-hand has now largely been replaced by the term used. Those two terms alone could have a book written about them. In my head I still use the term second-hand. Second-hand does not mean it really is only second-hand, it has probably gone through many owners, many hands, yet still it remains second-hand.
New books, so many bought personally in bookshops in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, the USA and Australia while others came through the post. Before the internet, browsing in bookshops was little bit of heaven for me. It still is. Bookshops in Oxford, London and other cities each had their own aura as did, and do, many of the books.
Second-hand bookshops were and are treasure islands, especially now in this internet age. When my sons were young children my mother had two Second-hand goods/Antique shops. One had a substantial book department and was in the shop that I ran for her. Not only did the shop have a book department but it also had a playroom and garden so I could have my boys there after their school day finished and until I closed the shop each day. It worked well as the other shop was just a short distance away so at times one or two of the boys would spend time there with my mother and stepfather.
The second-hand book department was a bit of a danger to a book-lover, people would come in to sell books and I was on the front line, that’s all I’m going to say about that!
My collection of books has already been culled in the past. It had to be done because books can also overwhelm a space, the fragile balance of ‘ownership’ tips too easily into the books owning me. House moves often make us think about what we ‘need’ to keep or not, so that is a good time to cull.
Death of a loved one is another time to ‘take stock’. In the year since my husband of 54 years death I have been through the bookshelves and sent books to continue their journeys out into the world.
The books were mine, my husband wasn’t a reader or collector of books, even so we shared many nuggets I found in them. My husband made the bookshelves that the books reside on. They started life much larger than they are now but sections were left behind as fixtures of a home we sold. At one point he cut the remainder in half horizontally when we had to get them from upstairs to downstairs on our own. That alone gave us a feeling of achievement, the shelves are long and heavy yet we got them over our then balcony and down to the ground without damage to them or us, he reconnected them and the books were returned to their allotted place. In our last move the shelves had to be cut again and they still show the cut. My husband suffered with Alzheimer’s by then so they did not get repaired as they would have done before, there is an ugly fracture line still waiting to be made complete. The shelves look somewhat sorry for themselves as the only place to accommodate them until their move to the new studio is in the hall although they had started off in this current home in a room that eventually had to become my husband’s accommodation. I often wonder about his connection to the books, during his illness one day I found he had put spoons almost as bookmarks in many of the books on the shelves. I shared a photo with an Alzheimer’s support group that helped through the stress and heartache of the illness.
Books on my shelves include many art-related books, history, geography, science, biographies and autobiographies. They are books that helped me as an artist, a teacher, a person. But now is the time I must reduce the number of books that stay. It is easier to do that with some books knowing I have access to the internet. Others are just such lovely friends to turn to at times that they will have to stay. Some books were of an age, an age that I was when they were more relevant to me, but it will be like waving goodbye to a friend I may not see again.
I found the list of questions on line about culling books, I think those questions will be a stating place for my book sort out. It is not a definitive list of questions, far from it but it is a start, what would your question to yourself be?
Have I read this book at all?
Do I have multiple editions?
Am I only holding onto this for sentimental reasons?
Would someone else I know enjoy this more?