Friday, February 20, 2009


Practices of CeptsForm Library

How the collection grew and reached its present scope

The library has been built over time exclusively to meet my interests as its proprietor. These interests have changed due to experience, discovery, and questioning and reflect the owner’s growing knowledge and desire to know and resolve intellectual issues. Principally, these issues descend from puzzlements over the self, others, and ideas.

Consequently, the library cannot be said to pursue any specific collection development plan but rather to follow in the direction of various developing interests that relatively recently have been identified as revolving around concepts and concept formation. This conceptual foundation came about by realization of actual preference and practice, not by deliberate or previously articulate intention. Prior to 1992, the books collected since the 1950s centered on history, classic and highly recommended literature, imaginative literature, some philosophy, some religion, and some attention to contemporary issues. When consciously examined as a whole, the one word that described it was Serious.

For several years, the library had been partially in storage and otherwise double-shelved in one 12 foot by 13 foot room. After 1992, the library moved to new quarters specifically designed for it, and for the first time in decades the entire library was out in the open on the shelf. Seeing the library as a whole and mapping it brought a new appreciation of its scope. With room to grow and the expectation that the library would in due time support my writing career, the collection took on a more decidedly conscious direction. Simultaneously, gaining more systematic bibliographic control over the collection became necessary due to its increasing complexity and my inability to remember exactly all of what it contains.

Towards 1998, the library gained identification as a collection focused on concepts and concept formation. This definition resulted ex post facto in examining the collection as a whole and determining what characterized it so that the question could be answered first for oneself and then to others: “What kind of books do you collect?”

For a retrospective statistical presentation of the changes in the collection classifications, see the Growth article.

In practice the collection has developed by reading experiences, personality preferences, and acquisition opportunities as outlined below.

Formative Reading Experiences:
When I began reading on my own in the third grade, I found such delight, wonder and excitement in books that I was hooked. Books caught me so completely because they took me to new, distant, past and imaginary places and simultaneously whetted and satisfied my hunger for discovery, integration, and understanding. From the first, books led to one another. Among the ones that influenced me most strongly are the following I remember specifically and most vividly, and I still think about them.

The titles listed cite edition information including copyright dates, when known, both as information and as my own confirmation of when I read them. In reality for most of this period, I was oblivious to dates of publication and except for classic works by long dead authors regarded every book as new and concurrent.

Formative reading when a child (1948-1952):
>Myths, such as Baldwin, A story of the golden age (1888); Colum, The golden fleece and the heroes who lived before Achilles (1921); Coolidge, The Trojan War (1952); Colum, The children of Odin (1920); King Arthur stories, such as Pyle’s The Story of King Arthur and his knights (1903) and The story of the champions of the round table (1905); and other hero tales, as Robin Hood.

>The Oz books by Baum, especially The marvelous land of Oz (book 2, 1904); The Emerald City of Oz (book 6,1910); and The patchwork girl of Oz (book 7, 1913). Paul Bunyan stories; Brer Rabbit stories; Grahame, The wind in the willows (1908).

>The book of knowledge (1949) and the Dana collected biographies of scientists, inventors, explorers, and authors. Several biographies of Edison, Burbank and Steinmetz.

When in high school (1952-1958):
>More myths, especially Graves, The Greek myths (1955) and Homer’s daughter (1955); Morley, Thunder on the left (1925); Renault, The king must die (1958).

>Luther’s Small Catechism and The table talk of Martin Luther (Kepler; 1952). Bible, both the King James and Revised Standard (1942, 1956) versions.

>Ceram, i.e., Marek, Gods, graves and scholars (1951); Costain’s The Conquerors (1949), The magnificent century (1951), and The three Edwards (1958). Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitane and the four kings (1950). Rourke, Audubon (1936); Herodotus, The histories (de Sélincourt; 1954). Gibbon, The decline and fall of the Roman empire (Modern Library 3v. ed., n.d.)

>Machiavelli, The prince (Ricci, Vincent; 1954); Plato, The republic (Rouse; 1956). Durant, The story of philosophy (1927). The philosophy of Nietzsche (Modern Library; 1927): especially Thus Spake Zarathustra; Ecce Homo; and The Birth of Tragedy. Schnackenberg, Now or never: some reflections on the meaning of the fullness of time (1957).

>Kluckhon, Mirror for man (1949). Berrill, Man’s emerging mind (1955). Chase, Guide to straight thinking, with 13 common fallacies (1956). Huff, How to lie with statistics (1954). Adams, The wealth of nations (Bullock, 1909). Hoffer, The true believer (1951).

>Historical novels, such as Cronyn, The fool of Venus: the story of Piere Vidal (1934); Schoonover, The Spider King (1954); Waltari’s The Egyptian (1947) and The Etruscan (1956); Selinko, Desirée (English translation, 1953); McKenney, Mirage (1956); Tey, The daughter of time (1951); Wilder, The Ides of March (1948).

>The little prince, by Saint-Exupéry (Woods; 1943). Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo (Bair; 1956). Wells, The invisible man (1898), The world set free (1914) and The research magnificent (1915). Dante’s The inferno (Ciardi; 1954) and The purgatorio (Ciardi; 1957). Hugo, The hunchback of Notre Dame (Bair; 1956); Morley, Parnassus on wheels (1917) and The haunted bookshop (1919). Voltaire, Candide. Erasmus, The praise of folly (Heritage, n.d.). Dostoyevsky’s The brother’s Karamozov (Garnett; 1950) and Crime and punishment (Garnett; 1956). Thurber, The thirteen clocks (1950). Lewis, The Screwtape letters (1943). Ibsen, A doll’s house. Camus, Exile and the kingdom (O’Brien; 1958). Rand, The fountainhead (1943). Maddux, The green kingdom (1957).

When in college (1958-1962):
>Bainton, Here I stand: a life of Martin Luther (1950) and Luther, Three treatises (1943): “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility;” “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church;” “On Christian Liberty.” Lewis, The four loves (1960). Bonhoeffer, The cost of discipleship (2d ed., 1959). Aulén, The faith of the Christian church (Wahlstrom & Arden; 1948). Tillich, The courage to be (1952) and Love, power and justice (1954). Harnack, Outlines of the history of dogma (Mitchell; 1957). Bultmann, Jesus Christ and mythology (1958).

>Dimnet, The art of thinking (1928). Jung, The undiscovered self (1959). Dante, On world-government (Schneider, 1957). Plato, Apology and Phaedo (Rouse; 1956). Coombes, Literature and criticism (1958). Aristotle, The poetics. Leff, Medieval thought, St. Augustine to Ockham (1958). Gilson, Reason and revelation in the Middle Ages (1938). Becker, The heavenly city of the eighteenth-century philosophers (1932). Camus, The myth of Sisyphus (O’Brien, 1955). Joad, Guide to philosophy (1936). Berdyaev, Slavery and freedom (French, 1944). Taylor, Elements of metaphysics (1903).

>Muller, The uses of the past (1952). Huntington, The mainsprings of civilization (1945). Childe, Man makes himself (rev.; 1951) and What happened in history (rev., 1952); Tacitus, The annals of Imperial Rome (Grant; 1956); Suetonius: The twelve Caesars (Graves; 1957); Nietzsche, The use and abuse of history (Collins; 1949). Ortega y Gasset, The revolt of the masses (English translation; 1932). The philosophy of history in our time (Meyerhoff; 1959). Dawson, The making of Europe (1932). Andrae, Mohammed (Menzel, rev.; 1955). Great issues in American history (Hofstadter, 1958).

>Homer, The Odyssey (both Rouse; 1937 and Rieu, 1946). Auden, For the time being (1945). MacLeish, J.B. (1958). Shaw, Don Juan in hell (1905). Paton, Cry, the beloved country (1948). Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Euripides, Medea. Huxley, Brave new world 1950). Rand, Atlas shrugged (1957); We the living (1936); Anthem (1946); and “For the new intellectual” (1961). Everyman. Woolf, Orlando (1928). Shakespeare, King Lear and The tempest. Lee, To kill a mockingbird (1960). Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago (1960). N. & B. Branden, Who is Ayn Rand? (1961). Ibsen, Brand (Jorgenson; 1962). Renault, The bull from the sea (1962). Faulkner, The reviers (1962).

Personality and Personal Development:
Certainly, this library grew out of and alongside the personality of its owner which became more introspective, self-aware, and analytical over time. Pertinent characteristics and viewpoints follow.

>A preference for reading as a means of learning and the belief that books connect learners with careful thinking across ages, distances and subjects.
>An appreciation of history as inclusive and only understandable as more human endeavors fit together in the mind.
>A realization that truth comes by pursuit, not by possession.
>An acceptance that one can be and often is wrong about what is thought to be known.
>A realization that the development and acceptance of ideas is slow and therefore old ideas in old writings are often as valuable or more so than when they were new.
>Experience that it is easier and more assured to judge the value of thoughts, writings, and books when they have been tested over time rather than when they are new.
>The observation that since individual book titles number in the millions and one can only read a few thousand in a lifetime, the ones that are worth reading are the ones that last over time and merit re-reading (or referring to) more than once.
>The discovery that many of the best books of the recent past or of all times are among the cheapest.
>Questions about how ideas originate, develop, become established and passed to others.
>Questions about the relation between personality and learning.
>Questions about forms of literature and the ability to write these forms well.

Purchasing Practices:
To a great extent, the collection reflects the opportunities to buy books and approaches taken to buy them. Growing up in a small town had its limitations, but from a young age onward buying books was more possible than could be afforded and choices had to be made. Drugstores in those days sold more books of quality than they do now; book clubs tempted and every trip out of town was a hunt for book stores. Thus, book buying habits formed.

>Since more books are wanted than can be easily afforded, collection wants are primarily satisfied by seeking books when they are lower priced.
>Since primary interest is in what has lasting value contrary to mass appeal, acquisition of current titles has less importance.
>Since it appears that many books wanted are not popular in the mass market sense or that interest in them peaks quickly and falls rapidly, those books will readily or eventually appear on the market at reduced prices.
>Since in most cases prices of books will come down over time, desired acquisitions are best satisfied by patience and willingness to look for the bargains.
>Since many subject areas benefit from redundancy, often one book on a subject is as worthwhile and useful as another.

Desire for the better books is informed by
>“best book” lists;
>histories of ideas and those books that express them with influence;
>books quoted by later books;
>authors found to be especially useful, informative, and expressive;
>questions or subjects probed in thoughtful, unique and productive ways;
>books which fall into principal areas of interest;
>books with promising departures or thoughts not previously encountered.

Therefore, books are to be obtained from
>any bookstore where one is willing to look, book by book, in potential areas;
>remainder shelves, shops, and catalogs;
>thrift shops, especially Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers;
>second hand and specialty bookstores;
>publishers’ catalogs, especially Dover, and others with sales;
>Friends of Library bookstores and sales;
>exchange shops and shelves;
>gifts and giveaways;
>bookclubs; paperback editions, and sales of older books;
>clearance and going-out-of-business sales.

Occasionally current interest is so high or fear of lost opportunity so strong that full or nearly full price is paid for books that are “worth it.”

Note: Reduced cost means some books are acquired that would not be purchased at a higher price. No doubt, cheaper books lower standards.

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