Earlier this year the Home & Garden section of the New York Times ran a story on books as interior design elements. The piece spotlighted a creator of decorative “book solutions” who helps clients fill their shelves with that certain je ne sais livre. Need 2,000 cream-colored leatherbound books to fill your library? There are specialists to help. Not so picky? Books-by-the-foot apparently account for 5% of sales at the Strand in New York.
The rise of these purely aesthetic bespoke libraries is perhaps a slightly unsettling comment on the book’s continued utility, or maybe it’s just a tad silly. But, hey, books are beautiful. We know that. A book collection’s varying colors, shapes, and sizes never fail to amount to a visually stunning collage that can also serve as a three-dimensional map of the collector’s intellectual path. But, as with the collection of 2,000 cream-colored leatherbound books for an equity manager’s “gentleman’s library,” sometimes uniformity can make an even more arresting visual statement than variety. We know that, too, thanks to the Loeb Classical Library, the 100th anniversary of which we’re celebrating this year. These little volumes of facing page translations enrobe Ancient Greek in green and Latin in red, setting a now iconic color palette for the classics.
It’s long been lore here that Martha Stewart herself is fond of decorating with Loeb volumes, particularly the reds. A couple of years back we also spotted the stack of Loeb volumes in this Pottery Barn ad:
Here they are, beautifully lit, in the newly created Lanier Theological Library in Houston:
And here, in the window of Athenaeum Boekhandel in Amsterdam:
And here, faded nearly to blue in the artist Donald Judd’s library, which you can visit in Marfa, Texas, or browse for yourself via his incredible website:
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Loeb Classical Library, and in the name of classically beautiful books that need no designer curation, we’d love to see pictures of your Loeb collections. Do you have your own? Do you separate the reds and greens? Have some creative shelving solutions? Just a pile on the floor? Maybe you’re a bookseller, or a librarian, and have a collection to show off? Maybe you’ve happened on a collection of them in a used book shop, or a junk store, or, like us, in a Pottery Barn ad. We want to see it all.
Please, show us your Loebs!
Send pictures to hup_promo[at]harvard.edu. We’ll share them here on the HUP blog throughout the year.