eNewsletter Feature Story – February 10, 2022
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
– Proverbs 15:14
Dear friends –
The New York Times recently published an article about a photograph of a home library that resurfaces again and again on the internet (the picture; not the library).
The image is of the home library of the late Richard Macksey, Ph.D. Prior to his death in 2019, Dr. Macksey had been on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where, the Times says, he was “a scholar of comparative literature.” The photograph is of a good-sized room with shelves, tables, desks, and chairs, with seemingly every available inch of space covered with books. You can see the image in this PDF of the article.1
Dr. Macksey, in addition to his scholarly work, clearly was also a book collector, owning 51,000 titles at one point (including first editions of Moby-Dick, T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations, and works by Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley, as well as rare artwork, posters, and audio recordings).
As the Times piece explains, the image of Mr. Macksey’s library has been posted, emailed, and otherwise presented around the world as having belonged to such luminaries as author Umberto Eco, and having been credited as existing in such exotic locales as Italy and Prague.
It is a testimony to our love of literature and, for many of us, of books themselves, that such spaces have great attraction and offer us comfort. Many home libaries are assembled for the way the collection looks on shelves or coffee tables, but Macksey’s is about the enjoyment of ideas, not the the possession of the items themselves. The love here is so clearly genuine.
One of my sisters (the one who went to Harvard and has multiple advanced degrees and now serves as provost of a university), was a precocious and voracious reader and read books far beyond her years almost from the cradle.
Me? Not so much. I learned to read at the “normal” age and recall picture books such as Peter Rabbit and Hop on Pop as some of my early favorites. It became apparent to my sister and my mom (it was just the three of us back then) that I was not to be trusted with valuable works of literature. I recall that my book You Will Go to the Moon was “decorated” (desecrated?) with crayon fire trails under the rocket ships and my personal depictions of what the moon looked like. Almost without fail, any book I spent much time with had its pages torn, was inscribed with doodles and marred by any number of food and drink stains.
I am somewhat more careful with my books now than when I was five or six, and my tastes have changed considerably. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I spend much more time listening to audiobooks than physically turning pages. When a book really grabs me, however, I purchase a printed version and go back to it regularly to recall the lessons it teaches.
This Sunday we move to the second week of our brief teaching series called “Prayer: Face-to-Face with God.” This Sunday, our guest preacher Rev. Dan McNerney will be on hand. His message, entitled “Prayer in a Minor Key,” is drawn from the Book of Lamentations 3:1-3 and 22-26.
Lamentations is a difficult book to categorize. It is a collection of poetic pieces mourning (lamenting) the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and God’s apparent desertion of the city of Jerusalem and its people.
The Jewish scriptures, or Tanakh, put it in a category of five short writings (Ketuvim or scrolls), along with Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Esther). In the Christian Old Testament, it comes along in what we call the Major Prophets’ section, between Jeremiah and Ezekiel. A web search of Lamentations finds some describing it as a poetic book while others consider it historical, and still others make it out to be clearly a prophetic text.
Also on Sunday, we will be celebrating the grand reopening of our Library here at First Pres. It has gone through a gargantuan transformation, complete with the re-indexing and categorizing of virtually the entire collection. Huzzah! to the amazing efforts by volunteers and staff alike! When you visit, you will see the new categories make it easier for young and old alike to find what they are looking for. There are also more areas to sit and enjoy the items. Near the entrance, there are prominent displays with a variety of recommendations.
Not comfortable hanging out in person? No problem! You can use the online collection at https://www.librarycat.org/lib/FirstPresEvanston, and pick up or return your books at the front desk! Front desk staff also know how to handle check-ins and check-outs, and can help you set up your online account in person or by phone.
At the beginning of his sermon last week, Rev. Dr. Raymond Hylton briefly shared about the plan to return again, throughout the coming year, to the “basics” of Christianity. Right now, we are looking at prayer, and we are called to pray with wisdom and with knowledge.
The photo of Dr. Macksey’s home library serves as a great illustration of how we hunger for knowledge, and how we can and should never stop seeking to know more about God’s Word, his world, and, most importantly his plans for us and for the future.
Looking forward to seeing you among the stacks!
Director of Communications
1 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/15/style/richard-macksey-library.html (Note: This article exists behind a paywall.)