Among the things I like to do when visiting friends’ homes is to find a bit of time to browse their library shelves and see what they collect. You can learn much about interests, manias, and their life by browsing their bookshelves. Life is about more than one, two, or three books that have influenced you. Those books did their job in leading you onward to other titles. Here is a brief tour of my library.
I don’t have the typical sort of home library. Mine is a series of symbiotic collections. I am a carver of maritime themes, eagles, quarterboards, transom banners, and anything marine for a boat or ship. So the two largest collections are maritime and woodwork/carving. These two collections intergrade and work together.
If my library were in one room, it would have to be large. But I have to keep things in different locations. A friend commented that I could not possibly read all of them. And in truth, all were not there to be read in their entirety but are reference works.
These days, many reference libraries I once used have strange hours and are far away. So it pays to have my material at hand. If I am working on a small vessel built on the Clyde, I have one or two texts I can refer to as a start. It’s the same thing for a ship built in Bath, Maine.
I have books on Maritime art to look up work by Jacobson, Butterworth, or the Bard Brothers. Sometimes one rendition of a vessel is not enough. I used about five works for reference while working on a portrait of the Cunarder Servia.
Is the library comprehensive? Nope. It is far from complete at about 250 maritime texts of various sorts. There are big holes, and thankfully for the holes, there is the internet and used book dealers. So despite the construction manuals for building T2 class vessels, I have almost nothing on the Union Steamship company or their ships.
The carving collection is similar to the maritime collection but much smaller. There are standard texts on technique, books by artists I admire, and books on carving styles I like but don’t do. I weeded this collection heavily a few years ago because my interests had shifted, and I would not return to some of the styles I had carved years ago—the weeding left room for new titles as interests develop.
My third collection is a general library of material ranging from gardening to history, some anthropological texts, and anything else you might imagine.
The anthropological materials are a sorry remainder of when I worked as an anthropologist, and my library was almost solely oriented to topics that touched on my work in applied anthropology. Over the years, as I shifted to other work and interests, that collection shrank until there were a handful of volumes written by former professors and a few favorite works.
Somewhere buried in my library are the three books that greatly influenced me, but they were the seed that resulted in my library and are now part of its heart.