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“If I were rich I would have many books, and I would pamper myself with bindings bright to the eye and soft to the touch, in paper generously opaque, and type such as men designed when printing was very young.

I would dress my gods in leather and gold, and burn candles of worship before them at night, and string their names like beads on a rosary. I would have my library spacious and dark and cool, safe from alien sights and sounds, with slender casements opening on quiet fields, voluptuous chairs inviting communion and reverie, shaded lamps illuminating sanctuaries here and there, and every inch of the walls concealed with the mental heritage of our race. And there at any hour my hand or spirit would welcome my friends, if their souls were hungry and their hands were clean. In the center of the temple of my books I would gather the One Hundred Best of all the educative literature in the world.

I picture to myself a massive redwood table by the artists who carved the wood for King Henry’s chapel at Westminster Abbey (I must be an old reactionary, for I abominate the hard materials that make our concrete homes and iron beds and desks today, and I find something organically responsive to my affection in everything made of wood.) Along the center of the table would stand a glass case protecting and yet revealing my One Hundred Best. I picture my friends treated comfortably there, occasional hours of every week, passing from volume to volume with loving leisureliness.”–Will Durant

I too love great books beautifully bound. Mr. Will Durant may border on idolatry in this excerpt from chapter four of The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, at least my wife suggested the possibility that this may be so. However, she was a gentle critic of this bibliophilic exuberance since she knows her beloved husband would have written this essay himself if he had Mr. Durant’s facility with words. Thank you, Mr. Durant, for this gift to all lovers of great books bound in gorgeous leather, well shelved in a library of dark wood and comfortable leather chairs. Let the contemplation of great ideas and beautiful words never end. Amen.

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Published: Feb 25, 2011
W. Winston Elliott III
W. Winston Elliott III is President of The Free Enterprise Institute, Editor of Imaginative Conservative Books and Editor-in-Chief of The Imaginative Conservative. Mr. Elliott is Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts and Conservative Thought at Houston Baptist University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Washington College and a Masters of Business Administration, with Honors, from the University of Houston.
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8 replies to this post
  1. Yes! Yes!! Perfect!! Dr Kirk once told me that he thought Heaven might be an English inn, warmed with a coal fire, full of provisions and good company. I am sure that he would also relish a nearby library such as yours and Durant's. Me too! I'll bring the madeira, a 1919 Bual if the Divine cellars stock it.

    Stephen Masty

  2. The best books have always been my truest friends, even if humbly clad. But I have succumbed to the lavish language of this homage to beautiful books and the perfect place to relish them. My beloved husband swoons at the scenes of libraries in the period pieces we love to watch. And he does like to caress a fine leather-bound volume. This kind of love I can understand (and indeed, I blush to admit, I share.)

  3. In keeping with Mr. Masty’s reference to Dr. Kirk, I miss being in the Kirk library with a fire roaring, Dr. Kirk pecking away on his typewriter. I think I would like to be there every day.

    • Dear Deacon Saturus,

      Oh that I might answer “they are both photos from my home library.” Alas, that is not so. The top photo is from the Château de Groussay in France. The second is The John Work Garrett Library located in the Garrett family home in Baltimore.

      Please pray for me. My library envy exceeds all human strength.


      • The only good thing I find about my enforced usage of the new Bill Gates software (alas, my old machine died a noble death), is that one of the wallpaper themes is of books and libraries and polished oaken shelves and… but, alas, I begin to twitch and foam at the mouth. Pace.

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