Browsing at the Kilns

August 24, 2009

One of the things I like to do when I visit someone’s house is browse their bookshelves.  It is always interesting to discover what interests them, and to see where their reading has intersected with my own. Often they will have read some books that I plan to read, and I can ask for their opinion.   It is also true that one can learn a fair bit about a person from the books they read – enough, in fact, that I sometimes feel that such browsing might be a mild invasion of privacy. I try to take a genuine, and not merely prying, interest.

Along the same lines, I have often thought it would be interesting to browse the shelves of a favourite author’s personal library.  It may be easier to do than you would think: A group at LibraryThing has recently finished cataloguing the library of C.S. Lewis, and it can be browsed online.  (I am a member of LibraryThing, and I made a modest contribution to the cataloguing effort.)  There are about 2000 volumes, and its contents might surprise you.   I expected to see Chesterton and George MacDonald, but I was not expecting to find that he collected Anthony Trollope, H. Rider Haggard, and F. Marion Crawford in abundance.

You can look at the individual books in the library, or view Lewis’ “author cloud”.  His LibraryThing profile is here.

4 Responses to “Browsing at the Kilns”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    What I would like to have is my library lending history from back to 1983/84.

    I know I’ve brought home hundreds of books over those years and I’d love to be able to browse through what they all were. The most infuriating moments often come when I can remember reading something, but I can’t remember where and I can’t find it in my own bookshelves and then I’m sure it must have been in one of those elusive library books!

    Maybe it would be an interesting post to tally up how many libraries you and your readers have held cards at – then there could be a connection to famous authors who were also members at some time…

    Here are mine in chronological order:
    Caledon Public Library
    Brampton Public Library
    Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies Library (had to use “connections” to get a card)
    University of Toronto Library
    Toronto Public Library
    University of Tuebingen Library
    Kingston Public Library
    Queen’s University Library

    Denied access to the Bibliotheque National in Paris 😦 despite my burning desire to see the original Abelard and Heloise manuscripts.

    Would be interested to hear others…

  2. Nick Milne Says:

    I had thought of uploading my own library, but it would be a pretty enormous hassle and likely very embarassing as well. I’ll just remain content to have it displayed on the walls for visitors.

    Still, this list of Lewis’ library is very interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Janet Says:

    Another good way to see what Lewis read is to read his letters to Arthur Greaves in which he frequently mentions what he is currently reading. And since he wrote to Greaves throughout their lives, it’s a pretty good catalog. I read quite a few of them when I was first in the CSL Society. I’ve always wished that I had time to read my way clean through them.


  4. cburrell Says:

    The trouble is that Lewis’ reading outstripped the capacity of most of us to keep up. This is the man who read every 16th-century volume in the Bodleian library.

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