Monday, December 31, 2012

Long Lost Books

Andrew Scrimgeour writes in the New York Times Book Review of his work sorting through the libraries of deceased scholars. I have read a bit about this sort of work in Larry McMurtry's memoir Books, but what I most noticed here was
Sometimes I find books belonging to libraries that long ago abandoned hope for their return. The letters of thankful astonishment that I have received from some librarians after they opened the unexpected packages are treasures in themselves. “Could we hire you to visit the homes of a few other delinquent scholars?” one library director asked. “We would be happy to make it worth your while.” Another concluded her note, “This gives new meaning to ‘Death the Grim Reaper.’ ”
I suppose that these were the sort of books that only the distinguished get to remove from the library--would a handful of Loeb Plutarchs or a Modern Library Gibbon be worth more than a polite thanks? I hope that there were no long lost library books in the holdings of  the scholar he names, James White, an historian of Christian worship, a man who had Calvin's Institutes open on his desk at the time of his death.

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