“The Home Library” by Brander Matthews

A curious little passage from Brander Matthews book "The Home Library". There is some good advice there, of course, (especially concerning the windows in a home library) but I especially enjoyed the style of Matthews' writing.


If a man with a fondness for books has also money enough to build a special room to hold them, as did the late William E. Burton to contain his fine theatrical library, he ought to consult those learned in the law of book-protecting. He would be told that the library should have very thick walls, to exclude the damp of spring, the heat of summer, and the cold of winter. He would be informed that the library should have windows only on one side, and that these windows should be recessed, that the sun may not shine in too violently, to the increase of moths and worms, and to the destruction of bindings. He would learn that the library should not be a corner, and that it should be protected, if possible, by other rooms on three sides. There are those who advocate a library wholly without windows, and lighted only by a skylight, but this is too severe and cheerless an arrangement for a true book-lover. There should be no carpet on the floor, for carpets hold dust, and dust is a great danger to books. Rugs, which may be shaken frequently, are sufficient covering for the floor. The heating arrangements, an open fire-place if convenient, should be ample enough to warm the room without making it hot; the ordinary hot-air furnace is very injurious to books.

These, however, are prescriptions for those who carry a long purse. The ordinary American, for whose use and behoof this simple treatise is intended, is well satisfied if he can give up any corner of his house to his books. As often as not it is an odd room, useless for any other purpose, and cheerless at all times. Now, this ought not to be. The library should be a room into which every member of the family may feel glad to go. It ought to he bright and cheerful. It ought to be easily accessible. It ought to be warmed in winter, and protected from the glare of the sun in summer.