I stopped by the archives of the library to read in preparation for an upcoming trip. The receptionist took my book request and stepped into the back to have someone retrieve the book. A moment later I heard the voice of Trevor Bond, the head of the archive, call my name.
“There is something I want to show you,” Trevor said.
I followed him behind the reception area to a corridor where offices are located and then into a large room where books are stored. This is one of the rooms where the library keeps some of its most valuable and oldest collections.
Trevor spread his hand toward a wall of books. “We’ve begun to reorganize the Woolf collection,” he said.
One of the important collections in our university archive is the personal library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, which includes over 9000 volumes. The archive is in the process of reorganizing the volumes of the Woolf library to maintain them as an integrated group of books to enhance use by scholars. Trevor knows that I have a fondness for Woolf and the Bloomsbury circle, and he wanted to show me the progress that was being made on the reorganization of the Woolf library.
The Woolf library is being placed on shelves that stand over six feet high and extend for nearly 50 feet along a wall through two rooms. About 15 linear feet of wall are now covered by the Woolfs’ books. “I expect they will ultimately extend all the way through the next room and around the corner,” Trevor said about the Woolf library. I made a quick estimation that it would be about 300 square feet of books. [And I also made a quick calculation of the square feet of books in my personal library . . . about 165 square feet, although my collection of paperbacks is hardly as interesting as the books in the Woolf library.]
As Trevor and I talked, I noticed a small volume on St. Kilda and thought about Leslie Stephen’s fondness for travel, especially in the mountains. Many of the books that Virginia and Leonard had in the their personal library came from her father, Leslie Stephen.
A copy of Frazier’s Golden Bough also caught my attention. The Golden Bough was influential in the first half of the 20th century, and it played a role in my reading last weekend about the archeologist Arthur Evans and his investment of myth in the reports about excavations at Knossos. I wondered whether Virginia Woolf had read Frazier’s Golden Bough and what she thought of it.
Trevor took the Golden Bough from the shelf and examined the opening pages to look for a name or notes. On the end pages of the volume, there were handwritten notes in pencil. “Leonard Woolf,” Trevor said, “made notes like that. Organizing themes on the blank end pages.”
Trevor then waved his hand with excitement and said, “Andrew just found this.” Andrew is one of the graduate students from the English Department who is working this summer to reorganize the Woolf library. Trevor reached for a heavy blue volume. Its title was Men, Women and Things, Memories of the Duke of Portland. Trevor opened the volume to an inscription written in a flowing hand. The volume was a gift “presented to Mrs. Virginia Woolf by her devoted & obedient servant.” It was signed “T. S. Eliot on the occasion of Christmas 1937.” And at hand, I had a book handled by both T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. It was a fine gift for an afternoon in June.
[The scan of the T.S. Eliot inscription in Men, Women and Things, Memories of the Duke of Portland was downloaded from the website of the Washington State University Libraries at http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/rssapp/rssviewer.aspx?Story=1127]