The Walker Library
Deane alerted me to the coolest personal library in the world, but I haven’t had time to comment on it.
Now I do.
It’s Jay Walker’s personal library. Walker, a dot-com boom and bust and apparent boom again, is filthy rich, from the looks of it. And he has transferred his wealth into the type of library that I think I’d create if I was, you know, filthy rich. One filled with great books. Artifacts. History. Legend. Wonder. Amazement.
Yeah. That’s a back-up Sputnik satellite. Yup. You are looking at the original prosthetic hand that played the part of Thing on The Addams Family. No, you can’t touch anything.
It’s a collection of ideas, in a sense. Walker didn’t set out to create a Very Expensive Library – he simply wanted to use his generous wealth to create a shrine to the ever-changing “great idea.” A quote from the Wired article illustrates this point perfectly:
Walker shuns the sort of bibliomania that covets first editions for their own sake—many of the volumes that decorate the library’s walls are leather-bound Franklin Press reprints. What gets him excited are things that changed the way people think, like Robert Hooke’s Micrographia. Published in 1665, it was the first book to contain illustrations made possible by the microscope. He’s also drawn to objects that embody a revelatory (or just plain weird) train of thought. “I get offered things that collectors don’t,” he says. “Nobody else would want a book on dwarfs, with pages beautifully hand-painted in silver and gold, but for me that makes perfect sense.”
What would I do in this library? What could I do? Aside from slide around on a puddle of drool created by my ever-gaping mouth?
The question I have is simple: “Where do I go first?”
From the article alone, I garnered these must see sites:
• A framed napkin from FDR outlining his plan to win World War II. I don’t need to tell you the cultural significance of this piece of history, a ridiculously behind-the-scenes artifact that should be locked up in one of the Smithsonian buildings. (I can hear my inner Dr. Jones coming out already; “That belongs in a museum!”)
• Bills of Mortality chronicle of London from 1665. Recount a weekly tally of plague victims during one of the world’s most horrific and interesting periods. It’s one of those books that you’d be afraid to touch, lest you contract some rare, immortal strain of plague.
• An original Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). The only thing cooler would be to see an original Bede, but I guess this will have to do – the most lavishly illustrated book of its time and one of the best examples of Renaissance-era history. Imagine – this is a book that is just one year younger than 1492, a date that has forever been etched into our minds as “A Very Old Date.” This is printing archaeology. Bibliophiles would have to hide their arousal.
• A raptor skeleton. You heard me. F’n dinosaur bones in your f’n library.