Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Belle Gardner's library (dead people's books)

through Lauren Elkin's blog about life in Paris, i discovered a marvellous virtual bookshelf: the "I see dead people's books" catalogue at Library Thing.

i was immediately intrigued by Isabella Stewart Gardner's book list. she's such a fascinating character - she lived from 1840-1924; her art expert friend Bernard Berenson said she "live[d] at a rate of intensity and with a reality that makes other lives seem pale, thin and shadowy." like some of Berenson's art opinions, many of tales told of her are probably untrue, but Belle loved art & artists, threw wonderful parties, and opened a phenomenal museum so that the public could enjoy her passion for collecting.

i'm intrigued by the breadth of her reading list...i do hope she read them all..for she had a copy of Francois Villon's ribald poems, a life of Sappho, the Decameron (she liked the medievals, by the looks of it), alongside a housekeeping book once used by Benjamin Franklin and James I's own copy of Francis Bacon's essays. one heck of a bookshelf, indeed. someday, i would love to read one of these books while sitting here in the courtyard of her museum in Boston...

"Don't spoil a good story by telling the truth."
- Belle Stewart Gardner

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