The Mystery of the Photo

dream library
Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

The above photo has been fueling the daydreams of Internet-based book lovers everywhere for the last several years. As recently as January 3, author and activist Don Winslow tweeted the photo, saying: “I hope you see the beauty I do.” To date, nearly 33,000 people have shown their agreement by liking the tweet, many of them adding comments and photos: of other dreamy libraries, of books, of book-related tattoos. Over 1000 comments in all, celebrating an image that has moved so many book loving people.

Kate Dwyer of the New York Times responded by identifying the library. Dwyer writes that the library in the photo doesn’t exist anymore. But that, when it did, it was in Baltimore and belonged to Dr. Richard Macksey, “a book collector, polyglot and scholar of comparative literature” and former Johns Hopkins professor. Macksey passed away in 2019.

Dr. Macksey’s book collection clocked in at 51,000 titles, according to his son, Alan, excluding magazines and other ephemera. A decade ago, the most valuable pieces — including first editions of “Moby Dick,” T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock and Other Observations,” and works by Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley — were moved to a “special collections” room on the Hopkins campus. After Dr. Macksey’s death, a S.W.A.T. team-like group of librarians and conservationists spent three weeks combing through his book-filled, 7,400-square-foot house to select 35,000 volumes to add to the university’s libraries.

The full piece is charming, and it’s here.

 

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