Tuesday, 1 May 2012

My Library

The Angelica Library, Rome, Italy
Some of you may have heard about my intentions to, one day, have my very own library. In an ideal world, my library would look something like one of these, particularly the one pictured, or at least the library Beast gives to Belle in Disney's Beauty And The Beast. However, I am aware that such a library is going to be completely out of my grasp, unless I happen to stumble across a few billion quid on my way to work one day. But the dream isn't to have a huge, beautiful library; it's to have just a room, of my own, in which I can sit surrounded by my favourite tomes. Other people will be allowed in, of course - I won't have Mr Bennett from Pride And Prejudice's attitude of 'this is my room, keep out.' However, the single armchair in the room will probably be enough of a hint for most people.

Allow me to give you an imaginary tour of my dream library. You'll step in through a door and enter into a reasonably-sized rectangular room, and as you close the door behind you, you'll be standing in the bottom right corner. It's a big, bright room, as it has two windows; one on the wall to your far left, and one larger box window, which is in the centre of the wall opposite you. It's got a window seat covered with large, red cushions perfect for curling up on, and overlooks a garden. Big, heavy red curtains - much like Mrs Reed's in Jane Eyre - hang on either side, but the high ceilings and size of the window mean they are not too overpowering in the room. In the cold months, they will be pulled shut, making the room decidedly cosy. The smaller window can be covered by a light cream Roman blind, but mostly it'll be left open, as that window affords a view of the front path, so I can still see the comings and goings of the world outside. The floorboards have been stripped bare, and protected with a dark, almost black varnish, but a large cream rug in the centre of the floor helps lighten it. As you look around, you'll notice there's a fireplace, on the same wall as the door through which you have just entered, directly opposite the box window; it's not a big fireplace, with only room for a small log-burner, but that will be enough to heat the room in the winter months - it's not a huge room, after all. The mantlepiece is mostly bare, with the exception of a small plant, a photo and a small model of Michelangelo's David - if it has survived my butterfingers for so long - that a friend brought back from Rome for me many years ago. A painting - possibly one of my mother's, if she ever finishes any - will hang above.

My chair may have slightly fewer studs.
Besides the window seat, there is only one other chair; a red wingback, much like the one pictured. It sits just in front of the large window, facing the fireplace, and a small, dark wood table is stood next to it - this table is large enough to hold a single drink - be it a cup of tea in the morning, a lemonade in the afternoon or a glass of red in the evening - a small plate, so I can snack whilst I read, and whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.

Then of course, the bookshelves. This is, after all, a library, and it would not be a particularly good one without bookshelves, and books. There are no shelves on the wall with the fireplace or the door - not enough space, besides the potential warping the heat from the fire could cause. However, the other three walls, where they are not taken up by windows, are covered in dark cherry wood shelves that reach from about a foot from the ceiling - this is a room with very high ceilings, as this house is a Georgian build - and stop about two feet from the floor. Not just stopping in midair, of course; the rest are small cupboards, where games, boxes of photos and various other bits and bobs that don't always have a definitive home can all be kept. I quite fancy the idea of having a bust of Pallas sat on top of the shelves somewhere, a la Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, but to tell the truth I'd be too scared of it and the possibility it might attract Lenore to the house, or a raven. Mostly, there's just dust up there.

Finally, the books. Given how my library appears, I imagine you'll probably expect them to all be leatherbound - but I'm no Ron Burgundy, and anyway, this library smells of cherry wood and the fireplace, not rich mahogany. My books are all as they are when they are bought, either from second-hand shops, or new-buys, or ones that somehow never quite made it back to the local library* (ahem). So, even though my library is decorated in manner more suited to a Dickensian gent, the covers of the books within are of a far more kaleidoscopic range of colour. Some may, indeed, be leatherbound, but the large majority will be dog-eared paperbacks, and hardbacks that have lost their dustjackets at some point. There will be every book I've accumulated over the years, from history books, to 'chick-lit', to fairytales, to good-old fashioned I-can't-put-this-down reads. If I have children, there'll be some shelves dedicated to their books, which will be a funny mix of ones I've saved from my own childhood and ones I've bought especially. There's only one proper chair in the room, but I'd happily share the space with anyone who wanted to.

It might seem like a very snobbish thing to want - especially when, in the case of some people, a luxury of a spare room at all is beyond their current reach - but it's a dream, and it's my own. I doubt it'll ever come true; apart from the fact that it'd cost a small fortune to kit a room out as I have imagined above, I just can't feasibly imagine I'll ever be in a position to even own a house big enough to have it's own library. But then, you never know: even now, I am on the verge of achieving something like this dream - a room in a house that I can dedicate to books - and whilst it won't look anything like my dream library, it'll still be my library, and really, that's all I care about. So long as there's a chair, a table and I'm surrounded by books, I'll be happy.

*DISCLAIMER: I've never actually stolen books from any library. I don't intend to either - if I was going to turn to a life of crime, I'd kind of hope it'd be more interesting than nabbing books I already have free access to.

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