One theory of heaven and hell is that it is customized for each person based on their behavior in this life. In hell, a person would have to endure whatever it is that they could not tolerate in this life (like a meeting that never ends).
There was an old Twilight Zone program about this concept…the unlucky man, a Lothario who spent his life preying thoughtlessly on women, was confined for all of eternity listening to the endless ramblings of two old people showing him the slides of their vacation.
Conversely, heaven would be created of the things you love most in this life. So if this theory pans out–and if I’m good–then I’ll get to spend all of eternity haunting the great libraries of the world.
Top of my list would be Jay Walker‘s Library of the Human Imagination. You can see it on the TED website. I think that’s where I’d like to go if I get to go to heaven. I could easily hang out in this place looking at Jay Walker’s extensive collection of manuscripts, documents, and objects that span the dawn of the age of reason.
Built to resemble M.C. Escher’s “Relativity” (1953), the multilevel library is accessed through intertwining staircases surrounded with glowing blue panels documenting the history of ideas and imagination.
Walker explained the theory behind the architecture in a talk at TED, “There’s another equally important thought behind the design, which dates back to the Dutch at the beginning of the Enlightenment. The Dutch, who were the great sailors, brought back artifacts from all around the world, and they collected them in what they called “cabinets of curiosities.” The Library was specifically designed to create that sense of wonder. The glass bridge…is a metaphor for a leap of imagination — a leap across space to get from here to there with nothing between.
From the tumbling block pattern on the floor to the lighting to the design of the ceiling vault, everything about the room was designed to reflect the sort of room that would hold the history of human imagination.”
My second choice would be George W. Vanderbilt’s library at Biltmore, a 250-room mansion on an 8,000 acre estate in North Carolina. Once considered one of the country’s best read men (as well read as a person could be in 1900), the library holds 10,000 volumes (in 8 languages) of his 23,000 volume collection. In his extensive travels of Europe and the Orient, Mr. Vanderbilt developed diverse and cultured tastes reflected in the library. He preferred the world of art and travel to the Vanderbilt family businesses.
A man of almost unlimited financial means, he traveled the world with his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, curating the art, artifacts and furnishings for his dream home. The ceiling painting was imported from Italy and installed in the library. The ceiling was purchased from an Italian family in financial trouble on the condition that its source remain secret. Today it is know to have come from the Palazzo Pisani on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.
George W. Vanderbilt kept a dated list of all the books he read and his diaries document his reading interests. A display case in the library includes copies of the notebooks he kept in which he recorded and summarized all the books he read.
While I don’t think the formal chairs are the most comfortable choice possible, one has to assume that physical comfort would not be an issue when no longer in a corporal form.
My third choice for a library in which to spend all of eternity would be my favorite place at Cambridge–the Wren Library at Trinity College.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1695, the stone library has survived the ravages of time and several world wars quite well. It is warmed by the occasional beam of sunlight coming through the windows (all the bookcases being below the windows).
I’m building my own personal library so that one day I can have an entire room set aside in which to immerse myself in the books—why not have heaven here on earth? I track it use a program for Macintosh called “Delicious Library” by Delicious Monster. Even with this excellent tool, I’ve managed to wind up with a few duplicates.
Resources I recommend if you want to take a mental trip through all the great libraries in the world, check out http://atlasobscura.com/blog/librophiliac-love-letter-revised-edition.
So there really is a term for a person who loves libraries…a “librophiliac”.