I have been waiting for my personal invitation to visit the extraordinary Walker Library of the Human Imagination in Ridgefield, Connecticut, but alas it does not seem to be forthcoming. However, I have discovered that it’s possible to take a virtual tour of billionaire entrepreneur Jay Walker’s home library (see video below).
According to the library’s website:
The Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination celebrates humanity’s intellectual and emotional adventure of discovery, learning, and creativity by showcasing thousands of rare books, artworks, maps and manuscripts as well as museum-quality artifacts both modern and ancient.
Constructed in 2002, the 3,600 sq. ft. facility features multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, glass-paneled bridges, dynamic lighting and music, and specially commissioned artworks that celebrate major achievements in the history of human invention.
Invited guests to the Walker Library range from schoolchildren to business leaders, government officials and scholars, as well as librarians from around the world.
Along with the expected rare books, manuscripts, and incunabula, the fabulous library also contains rarities such as:
- An original 1957 Russian Sputnik, the world’s first space satellite (one of several backups built by the USSR) and the U.S. response, a Vanguard satellite made from surviving parts of the actual American satellite that blew up on the launch pad.
- A complete skeleton of a juvenile raptor dinosaur, about the size of a large housecat.
- One of two known Anastatic Facsimiles of the original 1776 Declaration of Independence (made directly from the original using a wet-copy process).
- An 1890 Edison sound recording and playback device that plays wax cylinder recordings.
- A wooden sarcophagus from ancient Egypt, dating to approximately 1,800 BC.
- A working Nazi Enigma device for encrypted communication.
- A copy of Robert Hooke’s 1666 book Micrographia, containing some of the earliest published depictions of insects, leaves and other objects as seen under a microscope.
- An instruction manual for NASA’s Saturn V rocket.
- A chandelier from the James Bond film Die Another Day, rewired with 6,000 LEDs.
- The very first book designed as a work of art in and of itself, Goethe’s 1828 Faust included illustrations by Delacroix. The Library’s copy features a carved leather binding.
- Various medical artifacts including glass eyes and field surgical instruments from the U.S. Civil War.
- A first edition Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1768.
- A U.S. flag flown to the Moon and back on Apollo 11, the first human lunar landing.
- A 1667 publication called Bills of Mortality that tracked numbers and causes of death in London during the time of the Great Plague.
- A 1699 atlas containing the first maps to show the sun, not the earth, as the center of the known universe. (“This map, by far the most important map in history, divides the Age of Faith from the Age of Reason,” says Jay.)
- Anatomical illustrations produced from 1805-1813 by Italian artist and physician Paolo Mascagni, who used a scalpel and iodine to document human systems in hand-painted, life-sized illustrations.
- The first published illustration of amputation, from a 1532 German book of military field surgery. This hand-painted copy is stained with human blood on the cover.
- A military field surgical kit, circa 1900, including saws, clamps, and tools in a portable wooden box.
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Extraordinary. I wonder if he will bequeath it to the nation?
Would you? Or rather leave it to your grandchildren? Of course “leaving it to the nation” means that future upkeep costs will be charged towards the taxpayer while the grandchildren still will hold special privileges when they happen to have inherited some of the bibliophilic genes of their grandfather.
It does rather depend on the grandchildren. Provided they’re public spirited that would be fine. And they’d need to work as a team to consider the collection as a whole.
Always wondered why they built these libraries so high so that you need a ladder to reach the top bookshelves. One also starts to wonder what books are kept so high and how many times they’re read.
Gorgeous, thanks for sharing