Unpacking the Personal Library: The Public and Private Life of Books is an edited collection of essays that ponders the cultural meaning and significance of private book collections in relation to public libraries.
Contributors explore libraries at particular moments in their history across a wide range of cases, and includes Alberto Manguel’s account of the Library of Alexandria as well as chapters on library collecting in the middle ages, the libraries of prime ministers and foreign embassies, protest libraries and the slow transformation of university libraries, and the stories of the personal libraries of Virginia Woolf, Robert Duncan, Sheila Watson, Al Purdy and others. The book shows how the history of the library is really a history of collection, consolidation, migration, dispersal, and integration, where each story negotiates private and public spaces.
Unpacking the Personal Library builds on and interrogates theories and approaches from library and archive studies, the history of the book, reading, authorship and publishing. Collectively, the chapters articulate a critical poetics of the personal library within its extended social, aesthetic and cultural contexts.
At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the wholesale migration of the academic world online, and an urgent re-think of how teaching, learning and research are conducted, this book’s enthusiastic interrogation of issues around the value and purpose of libraries, and of the nature of humanities research conducted within them, is timely. It is fitting in 2022 to be thinking about these things, and this book offers an interesting, stimulating and encouragingly positive answer to the question, “Why libraries?”- Alice Crawford, Digital Humanities Research Librarian, University of St Andrews
Unpacking the Personal Library: The Public and Private Life of Books is a seminal, informative, and fascinating work of collective scholarship that will be of immense relevance and interest to authors, publishers, and bibliophiles with respect to the history, diversity, and continuing relevance of libraries. – Midwest Book Review
For archive rats, librarians, and deep-dive historical lit nerds, Unpacking the Personal Library offers a prismatic lens on how libraries speak. – Emily Raine, Montreal Review of Books
Unpacking the Personal Library is a beautiful edition of sharp academic essays on the intricacies of owning books. -- The Literary Review of Canada