Episode 10: Bookish Places

In 1822, when Thomas Frognall Dibdin’s account of George John Earl Spencer’s mansion (castle?) was published, he wrote:

…sofas, chairs, tables, of every commodious form, are of course liberally scattered throughout the room. The bay-window looks into the pleasure-garden, or rather into a luxuriant shrubbery; where both serpentine and straight walks invite to a ramble among larches elms and oaks…Upon the whole, if must be confessed that this room, both within and from without, has a character peculiarly BOOKISH – and such as we might suppose to belong to a well-endowed monastery.

– from Thomas Frognall Dibdin, Aedes Althorpianae: or An Account of the Mansion, Books, and Pictures, At Althorp; The Residence of George John Earl Spencer, K.G. to which is added A Supplement to the Bibliotheca Spenceriana (London: Shakespeare Press, 1822), I, 20-31).

Thankfully, in order to be bookish, a place doesn’t have to resemble a “well-endowed monastery”, in fact, private libraries and book collecting (bibliomania, in fact) became quite the rage in the late 1800s – and the propensity for all the trappings of the “bookish” has continued into our times. In today’s episode of Biblio Banter we discuss some of our favorite bookish places, and play “Would You Rather…” from the places noted in the advertising pamphlet for the Atlas Obscura book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders.

Das Kriminal-Haus in Hillesheim, Germany is home to roughly 30,000 detective novels.

We began our game, and Ellen had the choice of the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden or the Franz Kafka Museum. Then, Natalia had to choose between Gould’s Book Arcade and El Ataneo Grand Splendid. Laura made the tough decision between The Mount and the World’s Largest Book at Kuthodow Pagoda, while Ellen shared her visit to see the World’s Largest Turban at Bagore Ki Haveli in Udaipur, India, and we had a brief discussion of the world’s largest codex, known as Codex Gigas. Then we discussed anthropodermic bibliopegy, and Ellen chose between the Boston Athenaeum Skin Book and the Wooden Books of Padova University. Natalia was enchanted by the idea of H.P. Lovecraft’s Grave over Author’s Ridge, and Laura was excited about the idea of visiting The Libraries of Chinguetti but also intrigued by The Secret Room at M.S. Rau Antiques. Finally, Natalia was more impressed by The Raven Room than Stephen King’s House. As a final note, if you would like to explore other occurrences of anthropodermic bibliopegy there are copies of the French constitution bound in the skin of the opposition (Museum Carnavalet in Paris) and six known copies of the appropriately bound 1538 Dance of Death, with two on display at the John Hay Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

1619 Project – New York Times

Baltimore: The City that Reads

Laura feeling somber at Poe’s “original” grave

H.L. Mencken

Wonderful article in The Paris Review about coming to terms with H.L. Mencken’s bigotry.

Enoch Pratt Free Library

History of the Mencken collection

Walters Art Museum

Explore the Walters manuscript collection

Baltimore Museum of Industry

If you want to buy some books, check out Atomic Books, “Literary Finds for Mutated Minds”, where you can also buy a signed DVD of John Waters’ movie Polyester, among other curiosities. Unfortunately, due to many issues, they no longer ship internationally, but if you want something special from them, you can email them directly.

For rare and used books, check out Kelmscott Bookshop.

Shakespeare and Co., Paris

A charismatic bench next to Shakespeare and Co. book store

A little bit about the Tumbleweeds.

A short article on the Paris Literary Prize. Although the intention was to issue the prize every two years, it was discontinued after the second award.

Shakespeare und So (Mainz, Germany)

Stadt Hillesheim (auf Deutsch)

A bit about Hillesheim in English

Jacques Berndorf, crime writer.

Ralf Kramp, crime writer.

Kriminal Haus


Tatort: cheesy German C.S.I. type show

Erin wasn’t here for this episode, but her Bookish Place would be along the Seine in Paris, where the Bouquinistes sell used books.