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How to Display & Arrange Books

Ideas for displaying old and rare books in the home, how to display & arrange books on bookshelves, etc.

The arrangement of books demands more serious attention than the mere grouping of the works of certain authors ; it should be a study in proportion, balance and colour. Books are such a decorative asset in any room that it is surprising that so little thought is given to their placing on shelves and in cases. Before any mention is made of suitable settings for books, a few points concerning their attractive arrangement are worth reviewing.

A row of books should be carefully graded; there should be no abrupt ups and downs, and if the colour is broken up and distributed so that the most is made of lights and shadows, then a shelf can acquire living interest and character. All the beauty of the bookbinder's art is brought to our notice, and the shelf becomes a definite and vital part of a room, a background of unequalled charm and pleasantly-varied colour.

It is not a very difficult thing to master, this arranging of books, and several rather obvious ideas are suggested to us immediately we are faced with an empty shelf and a pile of books. The ends of a shelf are generally shadowed by the sides of the case or fitment, so to brighten the ends the lightest bindings should be used, the darkest appearing in the centre. Different shades of the same colour should not appear side by side ; but cloth bindings and leather, and cloth with paper or leather labels may be together.

The tallest books should occupy the ends of the shelf, and the grading should be carried out as far as possible, though never at the expense of colour effect or utility. In the arranging of fine bindings, old or new, harmonies and contrasts in the ornament and tooling of the backs should be studied. If we possess any fine old books, we feel that their right setting is an old bookcase ; some antique model that will harmonise with them. Books in paper covers of chintz-like character or in any attractive colour can either have a definite place on a shelf or be left lying about.

No set decorative arrangement is necessary in a bookcase or shelf, and anyone who uses books as tools will keep their working materials conveniently at hand. To keep authors together is an excellent idea, but not always possible, for although we may rejoice in the complete works of Rudyard Kipling, we may, for instance, have some volumes in the pocket edition, some in the service edition, and some in the uniform cloth edition. The sizes vary, and it is always best to keep small books together, for they do not mix well with their larger brethren. Many uniform editions are published, but books, like furniture, are more interesting to collect separately, and those of us who are under the spell of the first edition can never altogether appreciate the superior neatness of a standard size and binding.

There are many ways in which books may be displayed and open shelves though dusty are certainly more intimate than cases with glass doors. Before independent sets of shelves and cases are considered, the bookcase fitment must be dealt with and its varying forms examined. The recesses on either side of a fireplace are favourite places for shelves, although in a more ambitious arrangement a fitment bookcase may occupy two sides of a room, but for rooms that are not entirely devoted to books a small fitment in some recess is more suitable. The lower part of such fitted shelves can be enclosed by cupboard doors, and the shelves should be movable, for fixed shelves are an entirely unnecessary obstruction to easy arrangement. Fixtures on the lines of hanging shelves between the dado and the frieze have the advantage of making no claim on floor space, but the idea of having a single shelf running round a room at frieze height is unpractical except in the house of a family of giants. Shelves should always be within easy reach. They may take the form of a dado, the top shelf being used for china or accessories.

Chimneypiece with Bookshelves in Recess and Cupborads in Dado.

White makes an agreeable frame for books, and any of the fixtures described may be painted white with excellent effect. The tops of shelves should never be painted, but only the face and the under side : the surface on which the books will rest should be stained and polished.

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