The value of personal book collections for an understanding of the lives and often the most intimate thoughts of their collectors should be uncontested—though the relationship is highly nuanced. Renaissance essayist Montaigne, early twentieth-century philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin, and writers Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, and Alberto Manguel have all written about their personal libraries at length and with great affection, contrasting the books they only consult in libraries or borrow from friends with those they actually own. “Ownership,” wrote Benjamin in 1931, referring to his books, “is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.”1 The Argentine-born Manguel, in his 2018 book Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale, 2018), dwells especially eloquently on the symbiotic relationship between his own inner life and the 35,000-volume library at...

You do not currently have access to this content.