Alberto Manguel on…shelving issues

Still Life (The Grey Fan) – Francis Cadell

“Yet one fearful characteristic of the physical world tempers any optimism that a reader may feel in any ordered library: the constraints of space.  It has always been my experience that, whatever groupings I choose for my books, the space in which I plan to lodge them necessarily reshapes my choice and, more important, in no time proves too small for them and forces me to change my arrangement.  In a library, no empty shelf remains empty for long.  Like Nature, libraries abhor a vacuum, and the problem of space is inherent in the very nature of any collection of books.  This is the paradox presented by every general library: that if, to a lesser or greater extent, it intends to accumulate and preserve as comprehensive as possible a record of the world, then ultimately its task must be redundant, since it can only be satisfied when the library’s borders coincide with those of the world itself.”

— Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night, p.66

7 thoughts on “Alberto Manguel on…shelving issues

  • April 1, 2013 at 9:41 am
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    So true……… My shelves are inadequate at the moment and this is after I've had a clear out :( But I really *must* read this rather wonderful sounding book!

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    • April 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm
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      Yes, there is a certain irony to this excerpt making you want to ADD to your shelves, isn't there?

      Reply
  • April 1, 2013 at 10:18 am
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    Hmm, more shelf space would be nice – but, as the man says, I'd only fill it up again…

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    • April 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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      Tony, you wouldn't have to fill it up again. It would fill itself while you went for a coffee.

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    • April 2, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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      Ha! So true, both of you – shelves refuse to stay empty. I can't imagine what an empty bookcase would look like in my house…

      Reply
  • April 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm
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    So strange, isn't it. Last month I did a big rearrangement of my bookshelves, and when I finished refulling them all to the max, I found 15-20 books still lying on the table nearby.

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    • April 2, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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      I got rid of 100 last year, and the gap they made was about four books wide…

      Reply

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