Standing on shelves, quietly, waiting

There’s an amazing degree of craftsmanship involved in printing and binding a book; Making paper, carving the plates for the engravings, printing the sheets, tanning the leather, sewing the signatures, sewing the textblocks, and binding the book. Not to mention – creating the work within; making the art, writing the story, crafting the poetry.

William Blake was a master of all these crafts; a poet, an artist, illustrator, book maker. William Blake defined his time. And, more importantly, his work continues to inspire us. So, we still pull the books down off the shelf.

images of “America a Prophecy” by William Blake – from the Beinecke Library, Yale University

The act of housing these books is a sacred act. And, very few designers have done justice to that. In fact, most libraries are just functional colorful places to pull out information. Few buildings come close to catching any sense of reverence.

So, I really didn’t expect to be impressed. I certainly didn’t expect to be awed. I think we were just popping in to pick something up. But, when Meg and I walked into the Beinecke Library at Yale (by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrilll – 1963), I had to stop to take a breath.

Seriously, This space is like a womb.


All photos above by Ezra Stoller of Esto Photographics – taken from Arch Daily’s website

The light filters through the thin stone veneer in warm yellows and browns. The space is silent, and calm. The books holding the heritage of years and years of collective history and art and knowledge stand on shelves in a glass cube in the center of the space. They stand orderly, and patience.

The collective history of our civilization rests within this library, quietly, standing side by side on shelves.