By Elizabeth Prata
I posted a picture the other day of a new-to-me chair I’d gotten on super sale at my favorite vintage store. People had asked to see the whole library, so here you go!
I had opportunity for the first time in my life to have an entire room dedicated to my library of carefully accumulated books. I had opportunity to even design my room the way I wanted it, since the apartment was new and empty. It is a 2-bedroom place but I only need one bedroom, so I decided to use the room as my much desired library. Finally! I can have a reading room/library and I loved the idea.
I chose to do a sort of Victorian Reading room. I lived in Providence RI for a few months and I joined the Providence Athenaeum, a 200 year old library in that city. Edgar Allen Poe used to write poems there. It is a beautiful place and I used to love to sit in the reading room in a sunny patch on a Victorian sofa and dream about having my own someday.
I have 932 books. I’m not boasting, but it’s just a fact. I love books. I love finding them, owning them, looking at them, sharing them, and reading them. Here is a tour. First let’s see what the room looks like from right to left in a counterclockwise circle.
Now allow me to explain each bookcase’s organization. Below is the John MacArthur bookcase. When he completed his commentary set, it went on sale for half price. A dear friend paid for half of that, and I paid the other half. The rest of the JMac books either I bought, were sent to me by a friend, or sent by Grace To You ministry. If you are on their mailing list they just send you books for free!
Below is the Puritan bookshelf. The bookshelf itself is teak, and it folds! When it’s empty, all 3 shelves fold in. Another great vintage find. I love studying the Puritans and the Puritan era of history. I have books from Banner of Truth Books’ Puritan Paperback series, others written by Puritan-era expert Joel Beeke, Nate Pickowicz, THE seminal one by Perry Miller, and several by John Bunyan, among other Puritans.
Below is the Commentary and Theology bookcase. I have many commentaries from both Old Testament and New Testament sides of the Bible. My favorite books of the Bible are Genesis and Revelation, and I possess 3 commentaries on Genesis and 6 on Revelation. Below the Commentaries are Biographies, and little sections on certain subjects, like “Grace”, “Heaven”, Repentance”, “Prayer”. I have quite a few books by RC Sproul here (22). He is my second most owned author after MacArthur. Third is Beeke (10 books).
At the end of the room is a window. It looks out over the compressor to the backyard. Sun shines in here all day. I have an antique leather-topped table in front of it with Victorian elements on top, including the art glass lamp.
Below is a mixture of secular and theological books. On the top shelf I am always amused by my grouping: Law stories, Sea Stories, Dog stories, Railroad stories, Mob Stories. There is a little section on hymnals & music, and on Christmas. The 2nd shelf has books about Native Americans and the American West. The middle shelf has a mixture again. That big red one called Providence, John MacArthur called Piper’s book “Providence” genius and his magnum opus. My favorite doctrine after eschatology is Providence. The bottom two shelves are a mix of Christian Culture & Living, and Women’s biographies / Women’s issues. Here is where I have several of Tony Reinke’s books, including Competing Spectacles, Lit!, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, and Newton on the Christian Life. Reinke is leading a one-day seminar on Competing Spectacles at Grace Community Church Saturday April 2. Info here.
Now let’s look at the details of the décor and art. Victorian Libraries or Reading Rooms all had certain elements in common. They had leather chairs or velvet covered upholstery.
“A typical Victorian Interior is characterized by rich, dark, and royal tones of ruby, green, blue, purple, black and gold. … Presence of rich Library: Victorian style is incomplete without the Library. Literature was appreciated utmost, and thus, there were libraries which were abundant in the literature. To add on to the typical Victorian Library, get it filled with bulky and comfortable furniture with a nostalgic touch to your interior. Keeping some accessories like antique and exotic items, paintings, a gigantic chandelier with candles, family relics, fireplace, etc.” Source
A library of this sort would be more masculine-looking heavy woods, a desk lamp of Bankers style or perhaps Tiffany, a globe, natural elements displaying his interest in the widening world as the explorers brought back artifacts and items unknown prior to that era. A table or desk with leather on top and of course gilt edge design. I could not get a globe but I found this trunk with a vintage map covering it. I also found this old cigar box that had a tin relief replication of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. The bonus of having the trunk is that it holds storage, in my case, printer paper.
Below is an old photo of the Colosseum in Rome. At the left edge in the shadow is a horse and carriage.
These I found at an antique store. They are from Fratelli Alinari (Alinari Brothers,) the oldest photography organization in the world. In addition to having archived pics going back to the mid 1800s, they produced many masterpiece paintings on wood, which these two are. They come from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s. On the back is still a sticker from their organization and address of Via Condotti, a busy and fashionable street in Rome, similar to the famed Rodeo Drive or the Champs de Elysee. The one on the left is a Renaissance self portrait of Filippo Lippi. The one on the right is Baldassarre Franceschini’s Sleeping Cupid.
You can see the gilding on the edge of the coffee table. I really love this coffee table. I put on some natural elements from my own travels. The large sea scallop with outsized barnacles is from Labrador. I almost missed the boat because I was so entranced with the size of the mollusks on the beach. Other shells and pieces of coral in the crystal dish came from various world ports. The lighthouse looking thing is an antique Renil (Brooklyn New York) Indoor Brass Lighthouse Thermometer.
I hope you enjoyed this tour through my Library. I have four other bookcases scattered between my kitchen and living room, and a few books on my coffee table, but I was pleased with being able to design and install a real library/reading room in my new place. I want to spend time here this summer on my school break, away from the computer, and get more reading done. Thanks for taking the tour!