Wednesday, 23 September 2009

On faux libraries (and other dummies)

Today I was reminded of Dan's post (some time ago) on faux libraries. A friend told me that he bought a digital set of Karl Rahner's Investigations, and he suggested that it should come with a matching faux set, just so everyone can see that you own it.

The temptation to create faux libraries is not unique to film sets and other sinks of iniquity. When the famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon moved to Bournemouth, he didn't have enough books to fill all the shelves, so he added a wall of handsome dummy books. Charles Dickens created a humorous collection of dummy books, with titles such as The Corn Question by John Bunyan, Dr Kitchener's Life of Captain Cook, Mr J. Horner on Poet's Corner, and Savage on Civilisation. And Aldous Huxley describes a faux library with titles such as Biography of Men Who Were Born Great, Biography of Men Who Achieved Greatness, Biography of Men Who Had Greatness Thrust Upon Them, and Biography of Men Who Were Never Great At All.

In his entertaining Anatomy of Bibliomania, Holbrook Jackson pours scorn on such "panels of deception"; and he passionately condemns those "ghouls" who purchase old books with the deliberate intention of converting them into attractive boxes for cigars, jewellery, notepaper and the like:

"And what of those who encourage this ghoulish trade? They are no better than body-snatchers, desecrators of the temple, vain, tawdry, callous, whether sellers of such monuments of destruction or buyers of them, biblioclasts and dolts to boot, necrophils of a sort..."
Personally, I don't really see the appeal of faux libraries. I myself think it would be much more useful to have a faux desk and faux computer in my study. "Oh, that computer's not real. I just want to look as though I do some work here; whereas really I sit around all day reading books." Here's a working prototype:

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