Sometimes I think, ‘If I had the money and the space, what would my personal library look like?’ One of my friends said that he’d rebind all his Star Wars novels in leather given the money and opportunity! I don’t own any Star Wars novels, so here are my thoughts…
First, I would buy facsimiles of the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells, the Greek Bible Codex called ‘Vaticanus’, and maybe a facsimile of one of those bilingual Bible manuscripts like Claromontanus. Then I’d be set for Bibles, right? I’d also buy my very own mediaeval Book of Hours. You can order them here.
Having done that, I would acquire a vast professional library of primary (ancient & mediaeval) texts in critical editions and translations. For texts, this is the entire series of: Oxford Classical Texts, Teubners, Loeb Classical Library, Budés, Patrologia Latina and Graeca, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, all ancient Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (CCSL) and Graeca, select CCSL Continuatio Medievalis, Sources Chrétiennes, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Henry Bradshaw Society, The Library of Early Christianity (like Loebs), Oxford Early Christian Texts, and the Latin & Greek volumes of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (excluding the Vulgate). For translations, this is all the ancient and mediaeval Penguin Classics and Oxford World’s Classics, and all of Translated Texts for Historians, Ancient Christian Writers, The Fathers of the Church, the old Ante-Nicene Fathers & Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ancient Christian Texts (IVP), Cistercian Studies Series, Popular Patristics Series, and a variety of individual titles from other text or translation series. Also, Aquinas in Latin and in English.
Having plumbed the depths of the ancient, patristic, and medieval publishing houses, I would set up the reference section of my library: The Cambridge Ancient History, The New Cambridge Medieval History, the New Pauly (why not?), the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Quasten’s Patrology, Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon, 4th ed. Oxford Classical Dictionary, and the 2nd ed. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Already own LSJ. And probably some series about art history, but I don’t really know.
The raw material for crafting history, criticism, and theology would now be at my fingertips. I would proceed to acquire those histories and commentaries and other secondary works of scholarship that are pertinent to my own particular, current research projects, to wit, Leo the Great, the fifth century, and textual criticism.
But why stop there? Why leave it professional?
For fun, I would get the complete works of G K Chesterton, Ray Bradbury, and C S Lewis. I would get all of Asimov’s stories, by hook or by crook. I would get classics of English literature in lovely editions, buying up Dickens and Stevenson and John Donne and George Herbert and Edmund Spenser and Jane Austen at used bookshops one select edition at a time. I would replace some of the cheaper editions to which I am not attached with older or lovelier ones, such as my copies of The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, and Dracula. I would find Le Morte Darthur with Beardsley’s illustrations. I would get a few of the posthumous Tolkien publications that I don’t yet have, but not all of them. Basically, the usual suspects.
And I would put these in a room with a bay window with cushions. A desk with one of those green lamps would dominate the centre of the room, the seat towards the bay window. A couch with a table to one sit would sit on one wall for when I’m not at the desk. The wood would be all dark, the leather read, the carpet Persian.
If I had the money. If I had the space.