This past week I found this post about George Vanderbilt’s personal library in the Biltmore Mansion. Two points in it intrigued me:
First, the records he kept of ALL the books he’d read from age 12 to his death. And second, the fact that one third of the books he purchased were vintage–antiquarian–purchases.
I’ve been pondering written histories, legacies, and libraries a lot, and those two habits of his were not only a help and pleasure to himself, but a valuable contribution to his family.
The list would be of personal family value–for to know a man’s reading material is to know a man’s mind and interests. Some folks write biographies for their descendants, be it a multi volume set, a “Dr. Jones” type leather bound “grail diary,” or two handwritten pages. But wouldn’t it be a great strategy to leave a record of all the books you’ve read along with a biography (or in lieu of it for those who don’t keep personal histories)? And if that list has ratings or a few thoughts scribbled by each title, so much the better! I know I would pay a high price to have a list of books read by my parents, grandparents, and ancestors. Particularly some of them! 🙂 After all, who wouldn’t find it delightful to learn their Great-Grandmother’s favorite mystery novel when she was a young lady in the roaring 20’s?!
The popular website Goodreads does, in effect, fulfill a part of that for many of us in this generation. But it is not the same as a complete, tangible, and easily found REAL paper list you can place in someone’s hands and lock in the family secret chest…
I have kept a written record of the books I’ve read since I was 13. The first few pages are on “scrap” paper, but most of them are simply written out in pencil on notebook paper and filed away on the bottom shelf in my library. Seeing the photos of Mr. Vanderbilt’s “books I’ve read” journals has made me seriously consider investing in a nice handmade leather-bound book (there are a lot of fine ones on Etsy). It would last longer than papers tucked in a book and would be far more handsome, classy, and durable. Not to mention it would age into a fine vintage book itself within a few generations.;)
The second habit of making one third of his book purchases of vintage books, shows fine business sense and aesthetic taste. It is always wise to purchase things that appreciate in value. Any businessman knows that. A library of vintage books will likely double in value over 20 years. And those who leave their libraries to their descendants will realize, that in merely a few generations, a sizeable fortune can be amassed from the increase in value of books they paid mere dollars for.
And aesthetically, the price can’t be measured in dollars!
Here’s to building libraries intentionally!
Do you record the books you read? In a book? On paper? Goodreads? What percentage of your book purchases are vintage?