Most book lovers I know take their book collections very seriously. I have lost count of how many times my collection has been moved from house to house and state to state. Never being one to let my collection sit in a box, having some type of bookcase system around is an absolute must.
Bookcases and bookshelves are nothing new. Since the time of the scribes, a place was needed to store the work safely. Centuries before the introduction of the Gutenberg press and moveable type, the scribes would painstakingly reproduce texts by hand, putting quill to paper. The most reproduced work at the time was the Bible and completed works were a rare item available only to the elite of society. Bound books were not very plentiful and those lucky enough to own books wanted to display them. Like other trappings of wealth, early books were most certainly an indication of owners power and influence.
The Gutenberg press and the invention of moveable type meant that more books could be produced. More books meant that more people had access to them. Still, book ownership was largely confined to those people who could afford them. Again, the more books one owned, the more the owner wanted to put them on display. Perhaps it had something to do with showing off the owners economic status or perceived intellectual capacity. Whatever the reason for placing a collection of books on display, bookcases, and book shelves would become a common feature in many homes. As with other pieces of furniture, cabinetmakers began to include bookcases in their repertoires of products.
As the binding of books evolved, it became a common practice to inscribe the title and other information on the spine. The spine runs the length edge of the book as part of whatever method was used to hold the pages together. Books would be placed on a shelf in such a way that the title was visible without the need to take the book from its place.
Common Ownership of Books
Benjamin Franklin is credited with the proposition that books were a collective asset, something to be shared and circulated to as many people as possible. In the eighteenth century, books were still a rare commodity and ownership was limited to those people of means. Franklin most certainly felt that holding books in private hands acted against the interests of common people. Franklin developed the idea of housing books in a central location that would make them accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic or social standing.
The lending library was born from Franklins proposition. More importantly, libraries evolved into public entities with book collections owned collectively by the community. This was indeed a revolutionary idea that came about during revolutionary times.
With more and more books being produced, a way was needed to store and display them in a way that made them accessible. The notion of going through stacks of books on a table or floor was just not going to work. Libraries moved to advance the issue of accessibility and ease of locating one book out of hundreds or even thousands. Linear shelving, long rows of books sorted in various ways soon became the norm. In eighteen seventy six, long after Franklins revolutionary notions, Melvil Dewey developed a system of classifying and storing books. The Dewey Decimal System helped librarians make sense of issues involving how best to arrange books.
For those of us with modest collections of books, a bookcase system of some kind can do more than store our favorite tomes. Bookcases have continued to be decorative pieces of furniture often used to accent the decor of the room. Bookcases are typically thought of as shelves or casements that are built into or otherwise attached to the wall. The truth is that the term bookcase and book shelf can be used interchangeably.
The different styles of bookcases are limited only by our imagination. Woodworkers and craftspeople have designed, built, and sold bookcases ranging from the plain to the avant garde. For those folks who enjoy a challenge, there are many plans and designs for the amateur. There is a feeling of pride that comes with building your own furniture.
Bookcases can be fun as well as decorative. A design for a bookcase chair has been floating around for several years. The design incorporates a place to sit and read along with a small reading lamp. Of course, the real bonus comes with the small bookcases built into the sides of the chair. If that was not enough, the chair can be moved around on wheels. Designs like the bookcase chair are a perfect union of functionality, practicality and above all, fun.
Like other pieces of display furniture, accents such as lights, mirrors, and glass can add a touch of class and distinction. Bookcases can be built as an integral and permanent part of the wall system. Free standing bookcases have been designed that capture a particular theme like the architectural style of a trapezoid. A design may be as simple as a scaffold design with progressively higher tiers.
The bookcase bed can be the ultimate piece of furniture for folks who like to relax while they read. A few pillows, enough light and a collection of good books is the ideal environment for any bookworm. Childrens books have never more popular and like the adults, kids need a place to store and display their favorite books. Like the fun of the reading chair, bookcases for children can be designed with just the right combination of whimsy and functionality.