Victorian Library

The suddenly rich and uncultivated man declares he will have all that dollars can pay for, and, of course, his new house must not be without a butler's pantry and a library.
Victorian library

In city houses, where people were elbowed in by lots of 25 by 100, and had to make the best of it, the building requirements were necessarily very different from those of a cottage or country mansion, where the broad acres comprising the estate afforded the dimensions of a five-story house all on one floor. The five story Queen Anne style mansion was adapted to city architecture in which Philadelphia brick and Ohio stone trimmings formed the constructive color of the walls.

Victorian mansion

Often, moving into such a structure, was the suddenly made rich and uncultivated man who, in building his new house, resolved that it shall have the completeness of a grand mansion, and gave orders to the architect to absorb the large sum of money he was willing to spend for the display of his newly gotten wealth. He would have, he declared, all that dollars could pay for, and, of course, his new house "must not be without a butler's pantry and a library."

victorian floor plansOn the second story of this ostentatious mansion, beyond, and connecting with the gentleman's dressing-room, was the requested library. This would be a cozy little apartment, containing a bay-window and an alcove for books, separated from the main room by a transom, beneath which curtains were hung, shutting off the alcove entirely when the new owner, pretending to be somewhat of a literary man, desired seclusion. This library would have an open timber ceiling and a parquet floor, covered here and there with rugs. The walls would be paneled to the height of the door with old English wainscot, and the mantel and fireplace would be made of Sienna marble. The library would also share the use of the toilet adjacent to the dressing room, and adjoin the billiard-room in the rear.

For this man, the library, with its richly carved book-cases, was as indiscriminately filled as the dusty shelves of a street bookstand. This stately apartment, perpetually smelling of morocco, varnish, and new carpet, with its richly carved rosewood, plate glass, and book-backs of gilt, was solely kept as one of the series of show-rooms in which the proprietor of the house delighted in displaying his money's worth. The new master of the house sought his library only as the quietest place wherein to doze over his newspaper or sleep off the effects of his heavy dinner. Nevertheless, this book filled apartment was not without a positive effect. At least the children of the gargantuan mansion were brought up with the consciousness that at least there were such things as books, and a place supposedly provided for the study of

victorian library

them, and it is presumed that these offspring would have a better opportunity of education than their unappreciative and drowsy sire.

On the other hand, when study and reading were the purposes of the library, the book filled apartment was reserved for such, and no other occupations and diversions of the family were allowed to interfere. The literary, scientific, or professional man would have his library to suit his particular purpose. His books and the apartment which contained them were like the tools and workshop of a mechanic, and were adapted more or less to his special needs.


Then again with some families the library, or study, was used as a place for the children of the family to prepare the lessons set for them at school or by the tutor; this library was essentially a family one. The room was spacious, properly ventilated, and particularly well lighted. As it was chiefly intended for books, it had broad, unbroken walls with sufficient space for the bookcases to contain them. The library would have a window, or windows, at both ends, and but one door. Open shelves were better than closed cases. In all real libraries the books were displayed without glass or other cover, so that they could be conveniently retrieved without any preliminary fumbling with a key at a lock. The cases, accordingly, remained open, and always kept a short distance away from the wall. All the protection ordinary books required was secured by means of strips of cloth tacked to the edge of each shelf. This prevented the accumulation of dust.

A table with a solid hold upon the floor, a broad cloth-covered surface, and numerous easy-sliding drawers, a few well-cushioned chairs, and a thick carpet or rugs, were the chief requirements of the library, in addition to the books and the cases which contain them. The book-cases were made so that the uppermost shelf was within easy reach of the outstretched arm. Furthermore, when constructed low, the bookcases offered good foundations for statuettes and busts. For the warmth of the feet while working at the table, a fur skin of some kind or other was provided for them to rest upon. In addition to the library table, a standing desk was recommended in cases of protracted study or writing in order to frequently vary the posture of the body.