Exploring Carl Sandburg’s Library of 11,000 Books

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you travel to Flat Rock, Tennessee (27 miles from Asheville) you will come across Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s (“the poet of the people”) beautiful sprawling 264-acre estate. (Incidentally, “Connemara” is Irish, meaning “of the sea;” it is a region of Ireland on the north west coast in the county of Galway. The previous owners of the property named it Connemara.) Situated on the bucolic property, with more than five miles of meandering trails, is a quintessentially Southern home — a white framed cottage, built in 1838,  with tall, narrow windows, and a large porch framed by columned pillars. But for a bibliophile, the true treasures await just inside the front entrance. (Who cares about the scenery, let’s check out what books he owned and read!) On the first level, the walls of the living room are lined with bookshelf after bookshelf, holding Sandburg’s extensive library of 11,079 books — all of which are carefully preserved, since the house is not a National Historic Site. And that isn’t even all of his book collection. When Sandburg initially made the move from Chicago to Tennessee in 1945, he brought along 16,000 books. (For comparison, consider Thomas Jefferson, who back in 1814 owned the largest personal collection books in America: 6,487 books, which he sold to the Library of Congress that lost its 3,000-volume library during the War of 1812 against the British.)

Curious about what books the great poet owned? Well, the good news, is that you don’t have to travel to Flat Rock to find out. You can visit the National Park website about Carl Sandburg and download the complete list of all the books in his library. The bad news, is that if you want to print the list, you will need to load your laser printer with lots of paper — 2,646 pages, to be exact. Of course, the list does not contain the more than 30,000 publications (magazines, newspapers, catalogs, journals, manuscripts, scrapbooks, etc) that are not considered to be books; most of these are housed at the University of Illinois. Or you can simply scroll through the list. You can get some interesting insights about the reference books he frequently used, based on pencil notations and bookmarks found in them. Here are a few interesting reference books in Sandburg’s library:

Dictionary of Select and Popular Quotations (1831) by David Evans MacDonnel. Outer cover missing, numerous pages dog-eared, many passages marked in pencil, marginal notes, corners, torn and folded. Sandburg also owned a 1910 edition of this book with a brown leather cover. The pages were browned and many pages were dogeared. There was also insect damage to the inside back cover.

Dictionary of Americanisms (1896) by John Bartlett. “Discarded CAA Library” stamp on flyleaf. Many bookmarks throughout.

The Winston Simplified Dictionary (1928) by William Lewis and Edgar Singer. Janet Sandburg’s inscription on flyleaf: “Whoever uses this book please don’t write in it because it isn’t yours — it’s mine. And I don’t like names written in my books. [Especially] this one.

New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1942) by H. L. Mencken. Many bookmarks throughout.

Rhyming Dictionary of the English Language (1924) by J. Walker.

Complete Rhyming Dictionary and Poet’s Craft Book by Clement Wood (1936). Many tears to dust jacket mended with tape.

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (1940) by Peter Roget.

Bantam Concise Dictionary (1946). Paperback.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1926). Blue hardcover.

A General English Dictionary (1791). Brittle and dry leather cover.

American Oxford Dictionary (1929). Spine is loose and coming off.

Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) by H. E. Fowler.

Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1938) by Eric Partridge. Bookplate of Margaret Sandburg on inside front cover.

Dictionary of Latin Quotations (1856) by H. T. Riley.

The Century Dictionary, Volumes 1-8 (1889) by William Whitney. Pages browned; some pages tattered.

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Read related posts: The Lord of the Books: Creating A Library From Discarded 

A Tale of Two Donkeys and a Mobile Library
Lacuna: The Library Made Out of Books
 I Am What Libraries Have Made Me
If You Love a Book, Set it Free
The Library without Books
The Library is the DNA of Our Civilization

For further reading: https://www.nps.gov/carl/upload/Carl-Sandburg-Personal-Library-Collection-at-CARL-BOOKS.pdf

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