30 May 2013

Packing up old friends

The Pope Emeritus once described his books as his "friends," and I have often felt the same about my books.  Along this same line, Andrew Carnegie once said, "The man who enters a library is in the best society this world affords; the good and the great welcome him, surround him, and humbly ask to be allowed to become his servants."

I have spent the better part of the last few days packing up most of these friends, to which there has been a simple process.

First, I take a book off of the shelf and look to see if I have previously added it to my collection at Library Thing.  If I haven't, then I do so.

Second, I place a book plate with my coat of arms and my name on the inside front cover.

Third, I place the book in a tub with other books.

Fourth, once the tub is sufficiently filled, I label the top and the two of the sides with a description of it's contents - for example, "Books: Arthuriana" (which incidentally cannot all fit into one tub) - so that in three years' time unpacking and reshelving them will be easier.

The process has been rather time-consuming and at times tedious, but it has also been filled with many blessings.  As I sifted through my collection (numbering more than 1,250 books), I remembered where I was when I read many of the books, I recalled what I learned from them, and I longed to be able to sit down and read them again, but there isn't time for that.

What is more, as I was looked through the books, I was reminded of friends who recommended certain books to me.  I remembered friends was were me when I bought a particular book.  I remembered friends who gave certain books to me.  I wondered about the previous owners of some of the books whose names were written in them.  As the memories entered my heart and mind, many prayers of gratitude were raised before the throne of grace.

When I began the process, my shelves were more full than the above picture shows, with several vertical stacks of books on the shelves and even some books that fell behind others.  Now, though the process is not quite finished, the books look like this:

Nineteen tubs have been filled so far, and I know that at least two more will be needed to finish packing the
books in my suite.  I'm guessing that at least six tubs will be needed to pack the books in my office.

Throughout this process I have been greatly surprised at my own discipline.  As I handled each book I asked one question: "Will this book come with me to Rome, or will it stay behind?"

The books that will be coming with me are these:

One book missing in the above picture is one containing the Legends of King Arthur; I haven't decided which one to bring.

This seems to me a very good whittling down of my books, but I haven't yet gone through my collection of Ratzinger/Benedict books.


  1. My advice? Grab Peter Brown's The Rise of Western Christendom for the Rome stack. I've found well-written histories like that are priceless in the places where much of what they talk about happened.

  2. Beautiful piece on our relationship with books, Father -- and how the books we own and cherish are connected to our humanity and our friendships.

    My wife is on me to thin out my ever expanding collection (nothing new there). I went to Good Will last week to see what their stock was like in order to decide what I should donate to them and what might go elsewhere. Long story short: I ended up purchasing four more books. And then I went back this week and found three more. It's really not supposed to work like that! I must cull this summer or suffer dire consequences.

    1. I don't think it's possible to look at books and not pick up at least one to bring home.