Tag Archives: celebrities who collect books

Profile of a Book Lover: Karl Lagerfeld

atkins-bookshelf-booksWhen you walk into Karl Lagerfeld’s spectacular library of 300,000 books you are in book heaven — unless, of course, you are Marie Kondo and the overwhelming quantity of books leaves her head spinning: “You have to put all the books in one big pile,” she says, “and choose only the ones that spark joy.” Nonsense! Take a hike sister — for a bibliophile like Lagerfeld every single one of those books sparked joy: finding them, buying them, holding them, reading them, and just looking at them organized neatly in their custom bookshelves. To give you a sense of the scale of that size of a personal library: if you purchased one book a day, it would take you more than 821 years to complete a library of that size! You would also have to have really deep pockets. Assuming that the average art book costs $40, you are looking at an expenditure of more than $12 million (excluding tax and shipping fees)!

As you may have read, Lagerfeld, the world-renowned fashion designer, artist, creative director, and photographer, passed away on February 19, 2019 at the age of 85. For more than five decades, he was creative director at the Italian fashion house Fendi; and spent four decades in the same capacity for Chanel, as well as his own fashion label, Lagerfeld. And like acclaimed American author and journalist Tom Wolfe (not to be confused with another famous American author, Thomas Wolfe, who wrote You Can’t Go Home Again and Look Homeward Angel), Lagerfeld subscribed to the code of eccentrics that asserts that if you are an artist, you must really look the part. For Lagerfeld that meant dark sunglasses (day or night), fingerless gloves, and high, starched while collars that wrapped around his neck like a neck brace. He wore his shocking white hair pulled back tightly in a pony tail. You might say he dressed like a quintessential James Bond villain. (Compare that to Tom Wolfe’s signature look, that of the Southern gentleman: a white suit accessorized by a white homburg hat, white tie, and traditional two-tone shoes.) If his wardrobe didn’t put you off, many of his controversial fashion shows and personal views would. But we digress…

At heart, Lagerfeld was a passionate and consummate book collector — the bibliophile’s bibliophile, as it were. The first thing you will notice when you walk into his spectacular library is that the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are incredibly unique. Rather than lining books vertically (spines perpendicular to the shelves) like most people, Lagerfeld had custom shelves made so that the books are arranged horizontally, lying flat, with the spines parallel to the shelf. In other words, as you look across a layer of bookshelves, you see a neat arrangement of stacks of books, each about 10 to 12 books high. The second thing you will notice is that he collects large format art, design, architecture, and photography books. And nestled in between these stacks of large books, as if to plug in the holes, are smaller books that are placed vertically. Lagerfeld was immensely proud of his library (as he should be). You can imagine how many times he had to answer the question: “Have you read all these books?”

Now I know what you are thinking… what if you want to view a book at the bottom or near the bottom of a stack. There’s the rub. You would have to either use brute force to pull the book out (and risk damaging the book) or lift a group of books and place them somewhere, recreating a stack there, until you got to the book you wanted. A supreme hassle, for sure. But apparently this was one huge concession Lagerfeld was willing to make to have books displayed “his way,” that is, to have the spines reading left to right so that you don’t have to tilt your head.

Regardless of the orientation of the books on the shelves, the library is stunning. The rooms are minimalist in design — white walls, with understated, modern chrome chairs (gray or black), and glass tables sitting on beautiful parquet floors. One room is a two stories, with an iron catwalk that wraps around the room, reached by a sleek, modern spiral staircase. The catwalk is about 12 feet high, which means that the stacks below the catwalk extend more than 10 feet. To access the upper stacks, one has to use a custom ladder, that slides along the bottom, that has a leather chair at the top. You can see some of the photos at My Modern Met.

Not surprisingly, Lagerfeld also owned a bookstore: The 7L Bookshop in Paris, located at 7 rue de Lille, in the 7th district of Paris, not far from two of the most famous museums: the Louvre and the Orsay. And just like his personal collection, the bookshop focuses on fashion, photography, design, architecture, interior design, landscape design, as well as cookbooks (this is Paris, after all). Moreover, the bookshop features books written by or edited by Lagerfeld.

So what will become of Lagerfeld’s incredible library? The usual scenario is that the executor will donate some portion to universities, art or fashion schools; the rest will be inventoried and broken up into smaller lots and sold at auction; perhaps some will end up at his bookshop.  Most mortals will never own a collection like this, but what an inspiration… There is an old adage that says: “you can’t take it with you.” But the bibliophile’s response is always the same: “it doesn’t really matter — the joy is in the building of the library, building it one book at time; feeling that tremendous sense of elation when you find a special book that you connect with; and that book inevitably leads you to another one, and so forth.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: https://mymodernmet.com/karl-lagerfeld-sideways-library/


Profile of a Book Lover: Richard Heber


I recently came across a fascinating essay of a true bibliophile in a rather obscure out-of-print book: The Bibliotaph and Other People by Leon Vincent published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company in 1899. Fortunately, this story came to light because it was excerpted in a recently published book (as in “on-demand”) titled The Book Addict: Stories of Bibliomania edited by David Lane. By way of introduction, Richard Heber (1773-1833), as many students of his time, had a classical education; fascinated by what he studied, Heber began collecting classical works as well as English literature and drama. In 1812, he was one of the founders of the Roxburgh Club of bibliophiles. Over a decade later, in 1824, Heber was one of the founders of the Athenaeum Club, a private members’ club in London for “Literary and Scientific men and followers of the Fine Arts.” Over the course of his intellectual journey, Heber collected more than 146,827 books. Imagine that — he essentially purchased about 3,000 books every year of his life. After he passed away in 1833, it took 216 days to sell his entire collection. So, without further ado, let’s meet Richard Heber, bibliophile extraordinaire:

The name of Heber suggests the thought that all men who buy books are not bibliophiles. He alone is worthy the title who acquires his volumes with something like passion. One may buy books like a gentleman, and that is very well. One may buy books like a gentleman and a scholar, which counts for something more. But to be truly of the elect one must resemble Richard Heber, and buy books like a gentle­man, a scholar, and a madman. 

You may find an account of Heber in an old file of The Gentleman’s Magazine. He began in his youth by making a library of the classics. Then he became interested in rare English books, and collected them con amore for thirty years. He was very rich, and he had never given hostages to fortune; it was therefore pos­sible for him to indulge his fine passion without stint. He bought only the best books, and he bought. them by thousands and by tens of thousands. He would have held as foolishness that saying from the Greek which exhorts one to do nothing too much. According to Heber’s theory, it is impossible to have too many good books. Usually one library is supposed to be enough for one man. Heber was satisfied only with eight libraries, and then he was hardly satisfied. He had a library in his house at Hodnet. “His residence in Pimlico, where he died, was filled, like Magliabecchi’s at Florence, with books from the top to the bottom ; every chair, every table, every passage containing piles of erudition.” He had a house in York Street which was crowded with books. He had a library in Oxford, one at Paris, one at Ant­werp, one at Brussels, and one at Ghent. The most accurate estimate of his collections places the number at 146,827 volumes. Heber is be­lieved to have spent half a million dollars for books. After his death the collections were dis­persed. The catalogue was published in twelve parts, and the sales lasted over three years. 

Heber had a witty way of explaining why be possessed so many copies of the same book. When taxed with the sin of buying duplicates he replied in this manner: “Why, you see, sir, no man can comfortably do without three copies of a book. One he must have for his show copy, and he will probably keep it at his coun­try house ; another he will require for his own use and reference; and unless he is inclined to part with this, which is very inconvenient, or risk the injury of his best copy, he must needs have a third at the service of his friends.”

In the pursuit of a coveted volume Heber was indefatigable. He was not of those Syb­aritic buyers who sit in their offices while agents and dealers do the work. “On hearing of a curious book he has been known to put himself into the mail-coach, and travel three, four, or five hundred miles to obtain it, fearful to trust his commission to a letter.” He knew the solid comfort to be had in reading a book catalogue. Dealers were in the habit of send­ing him the advance sheets of their lists. He ordered books from his death-bed, and for anything we know to the contrary died with a catalogue in his fingers.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: https://www.ha.com/heritage-auctions-press-releases-and-news/sylvester-stallone-s-library-collection-of-rare-books-debuts-at-heritage-auctions.s?releaseId=3111&ic=ih-clickButton-Stallone-Library-auctionHome-6174-021417


Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone

atkins-bookshelf-booksYes, you read that right — Sylvester Stallone, acclaimed film actor, screenwriter, producer — and bibliophile. Apparently when Rambo wasn’t tracking down and mercilessly shooting up bad guys, he was visiting antiquarian bookshops. Who knew? Over the decades, he acquired a very impressive collection of first and rare editions from some of the greatest authors of the 18th and 19th centuries. Heritage Auctions, based in New York, will be auctioning Stallone’s private library of more than 1,000 valuable books on March 8, 2017. Here are the some of the literary gems in Stallone’s collection:

The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (1902): Paumanok edition in 10 volumes, bound in red morocco; limited to 300 sets. Includes a handwritten postcard from Walt Whitman, dated 1890. Value: $4,000.

The Waverly Novels by Sir Walter Scott (circa 1910): 10 volumes, leather bound. Includes a one-page autographed letter by Scott. Value: $2,000.

Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1900): 22 volumes; limited to 500 sets. Includes a customs certificate signed by Hawthorne. Value: $1,500.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1886): First edition, housed in two protective boxes. Value: $2,000.

The Complete Works of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 18 volumes; limited to 275 sets (of which this is number 10) signed by the publisher and the editors. Value $1,200.

Works of Washington Irving (1895-1987): Author’s autograph edition, 40 volumes; limited to 500 sets (of which this is number 23) with original, one-page holographic manuscript. Value: $1,200.

The Rougon-Macquart by Emile Zola: The first collected U.S. edition in 12 volumes, limited to 1,000 sets. Value: $1,000. 

The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay (1899-1900): Large paper edition, limited to 500 numbered sets (of which this is number 212), with original two-page autograph letter, signed by Macaulay (1857). Value: $1,000.

Owning books once owned by Rocky/Rambo: priceless.

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For further reading: https://www.ha.com/heritage-auctions-press-releases-and-news/sylvester-stallone-s-library-collection-of-rare-books-debuts-at-heritage-auctions.s?releaseId=3111&ic=ih-clickButton-Stallone-Library-auctionHome-6174-021417


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