You know how when a date invites you back to their apartment, said date attempts to cop a feel as you simultaneously attempt to review the spines of every book atop the coffee table? Well. We've heard this is something some people do. Point being: personal libraries can be deeply personal things. They offer tangible windows into someone's passions and curiosities. They present a unique sense of history and can paint a pretty spectacular portrait of their owner's mind and heart. Though sometimes a fat stack of lit demonstrates little more than how aforementioned date hopes to present aforementioned self, when it comes to the Great Minds of American History, rest assured, their libraries were for more than a game of show-and-smooch.
Birch Cooper is a man who understands the value of the book. He began buying and selling rare books as a college student in the 1990s and moved to New York in 2001, where he developed and curated libraries for homeowners and commercial clients. (Ok, so this Cooper fellow might know a thing or two about lady-slaying libs. Not gonna hold that against him.) His latest literary endeavor, Birch Books Conservation, is a non-profit organization devoted to the researching, recording, and protection of books found at historic sites. Cooper is using Kickstarter to raise funds for the organization's first project, the library of world-famous architect Philip Johnson.
Preserving the "professional libraries of artists, architects, authors, and important public figures through publishing, photographic and written research," Birch Books Conservation shares the library collections of "distinguished people and places" of the United States. Johnson created his landmark Glass House in New Canaan, CT, in 1949, and that house is now the site of his professional library. After 3 years of researching, photographing, and summarizing its contents, The Library of Philip Johnson: Selections for the Glass House will be ready for printing this fall.
The 250-page volume contains over 350 photographic illustrations and brief textual analyses of 100 selected volumes from Johnson's study. Each selected title includes a photograph of the cover, highlights from the interior, and a synopsis of the contents. (You can preview the book here.) A few notable selections include Rem Koolhaas' Delirious New York, Pratt Professor (and wife of Laszlo) Sibyl Moholy-Nagy's Matrix of Man: An Ullustration History of Urban Environment, Hans M. Wingler's Bauhaus, Anatole Kopp's Constructivist Architecture in the USSR, Martin Greif's Depression Modern: The Thirties Style in America, and Helen M. Fox's study of Versaille's landscape architect, Andre Le Notre: Garden Architect to Kings. Featuring a forward by Glass House Executive Director Robert A.M. Stern, Selections from The Glass House contains a diverse combination of works that influenced Johnson's iconic brand of American modernism.
As a non-profit, all proceeds from the sale of Birch Books' publications go toward the conservation of historic US sites' libraries — in this case, Johnson's Glass House. As we become increasingly nostalgic for the rich histories and physicality of books, their importance grows stronger every day, and Cooper's Kickstarter project seems like a wonderful way to explore and preserve our intellectual and cultural heritage for years to come.