Tuesday, January 02, 2007

An Anglo-Saxonist's Library

In a previous post I discussed the difficulty of acquiring essential research tools, and in the post before that I mentioned snagging some key books and trying to determine what to buy next (a very happy fate; not soon to be repeated, I'm sure). A reader commented with a question:
Would you share a representative list of what a crusty old english professor might keep in his library (for the edification of the dilettantes frequenting your blog)?

Although I dearly hope I am not yet Crusty (though I do a good immitation of Krusty), I am clearly on the rapid train to that destination (first stop: have children; second stop, start shaving head to save time in morning; third stop: begin sentences at department meetings with "When that was proposed ten years ago....").

And I think this is an excellent question (if it's not some kind of a "humiliation game" set up, where I reveal that I have not a single book by some eminent person on my shelves). It's also a big question, so I'll tackle it in two parts. The first is easy: I'll post some pictures of my actual shelves with enough details so that you can recognize the books. This also lets me show off the shelves, which are part of a massive floor-to-ceiling bookcase that wraps around one wall of our study. My wife and I designed built them ourselves, and we will never do that again, ever. Maybe excavate a well or pour the foundation for a porch, but nothing challenging like designing and building a few hundred linear feet of bookcases.

So, if I can get the new computer running tomorrow before this one finally dies for real, I will post some bookcase Pr0n for you (and academics are terrible voyeurs about other people's books. I always know that my books will be picked over when I have someone over to visit), I'll post the pictures.

And while I'm working on that, I'll try to come up with a list (linked to Amazon for in-print titles) of the books I need to do research without having to leave the house very much. People on ANSAX have attempted to put together such lists before, but these always falter on the shoals of sucking up: you must mention your director's book and the other books you think will make you look cool, and something so minor that it appears you are cornering the market on that sub-field (Drout's hint: you know why there aren't a lot articles about the Whale and the Partridge poems in the Exeter Book? Becuase they're not that great and there's not much to say -- see my article in Neophilologus that should be out soon for a example of how much work is required to enter into a seemingly empty area of the field).

So I am going to use myself as a guide in the sense that most of the books I will list, I will have. That means that certain kinds of books--interpretations, essay collections that are uneven--may not be on my shelves because these are easy enough to get from some kind of Interlibrary Loan, even from a fairly marginal public library. I will do my best to put no up-sucking in this list, at least at the "core" area. And it will all be focused on Old rather than Middle English (mostly because I've moved a big pile of my Middle English interpretive books to my office in order to be able to loan them to students next semester).

Stay tuned for...

The Library of Solomon and Saturn...


Eric said...

Can't wait for the list, and the pictures especially. I wholeheartedly agree: picking through another's well-stocked library is a thing of joy :)

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