AT T H E V E A U
APPRECIATIONS: THE JOYS OF A PROPER LIBRARY
This page: Michael Thomas in front of his beloved library.
I RECENTLY HAD REASON to think seriously about breaking off a relationship with an entity whose claims on my affection and dependency have never lost constancy, indeed have grown and ripened over six decades. I’m speaking of my library. We may be obliged to move, and that has raised the question, “What will we do about the books?” It’s both a short-term and a longer-term problem. If we move in the near future, there are simply too many to fit in any place we’re likely to end up. And if we don’t, when the actuarial table kicks in—I’m about to turn 81—I don’t want my wife and children to have to deal with the problem of getting rid of the 5000 or so books (after it’s settled who gets the Nonesuch Dickens; the signed Patrick O’Brian; the first editions of The Way We Live Now, Vanity Fair, and The Great Gatsby; and the 15-volume scholarly catalogue of the Robert Lehman Collection—a project I conceived and initiated and which took 34 years to complete). We’re talking quantity as well as quality here. Whenever I take a delivery or welcome a first-time visitor, their initial exclamation, inevitably, is: “Wow! Look at all these books!” Books to the left, books to the right, books everywhere, on shelves, ladder rungs, stacked against a corner wall, on every flat surface. We’re talking about 600 or so running feet, floor-to-ceiling (and in this loft the ceilings are high), built for me by Gothic Cabinet when I moved here 16 years ago. When I first went to see the space—the building was then under renovation—my