Emerson: Enchanted Library

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends, but they are imprisoned by an enchanter in these paper and leathern boxes; and though they know us, and have been waiting two, ten, or twenty centuries for us,—some of them,—and are eager to give us a sign, and unbosom themselves, it is the law of their limbo that they must not speak until spoken to; and as the enchanter has dressed them, like battalions of infantry, in coat and jacket of one cut, by the thousand and ten thousand, your chance of hitting on the right one is to be computed by the arithmetical rule of Permutation and Combination,—not a choice out of three caskets, but out of half a million caskets all alike. But it happens in our experience, that in this lottery there are at least fifty or a hundred blanks to a prize. It seems, then, as if some charitable soul, after losing a great deal of time among the false books, and alighting upon a few true ones which made him happy and wise, would do a right act in naming those which have been bridges or ships to carry him safely over dark morasses and barren oceans, into the heart of sacred cities, into palaces and temples. This would be best done by those great masters of books who from time to time appear,—the Fabricii, the Seldens, Magliabecchis, Scaligers, Mirandolas, Bayles, Johnsons, whose eyes sweep the whole horizon of learning. But private readers, reading purely for love of the book, would serve us by leaving each the shortest note of what he found.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Books” in Society and Solitude: Twelve Chapters

And so we have the book blog. 🙂


6 comments on “Emerson: Enchanted Library

  1. Stefanie says:

    Are you reading Emerson? You know I love his work. 🙂

  2. No, I just stumbled across a quote from this essay and went to look it up. He is not too complimentary about novels, especially Jane Eyre! Well, as he says, how one reacts to novels says a lot about one's character. 😉

  3. Matt says:


    “One of the most subversive institutions… is the public library.”

    ~ bell hooks

  4. Shhhh, don't let the secret out! 😉

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