By Cory Doctorow at 7:03 am Sat, Jul 7, 2012
I'm very taken with James Charlick's photo, "The Grand Library," shot in an abandoned house during an urban exploration expedition.
The Grand Library
Looks just like my office at home – except I don’t have the fancy old bookcases – just books and crap all over the place.
Wow. I’m speechless and a little sad.
Don’t worry. They’re probably mostly 60’s and 70’s potboilers.
Those bookcases would at least be filled by books bought by the yard from interior designers and not cheap paperbacks (or even hardbacks).
That’s a much better statement for what I meant — books by the yard. In other words, books so common and bad that they’re useless except to take up space and look vaguely interesting.
I’m doubly sad – sad about the books but also that a house with such a magnificent library is abandoned and going to ruin.
Indeed. That is such a wonderful room, abandoned. The photostream has other images of the house, including a couple of amazing fireplaces/mantelpieces – I can’t imagine how such a place could be abandoned. Legal/estate dispute maybe? But it looks like it’s been mouldering for decades – judging by some of the features and the style of the books in the close-up image it could easily be fifty years (a simple, as in non-elaborate, electric light fixture is visible in one image; between that and the books I’m guessing 40-80 years).
Perhaps it’s been built over an Indian cemetery.
I’m kinda sad at all those books just sitting there, not being read, not being used.
Is it ironic that the only book whose title I can discern is called “Time to Read”?
Maybe “Time to Heal”?
George Cross – Suffolk Punch
____ Satan ( green book behind door)
Desmond Donnelly – Gadarene ’68
(The other photo doesn’t have enough resolution either.)
(I considered writing the title of an extremely rare book to precipitate a mad dash to this location, but that would be mean.)
(Hey one says, “Gut____rg Bib__”, probably worthless.)
The books were probably just for decoration. Even Strand Books sells them by the foot:
For those interested, there are several more pictures of this house in the The UK UE Urbex Urban Exploration Forums:
Thanks for these links, which explain things much more clearly and provide many more wonderful photos.
I don’t think these are just decorative. Why leave a space-taking foot stool near the bookcase? Many of the books on the shelves look well-used, which I presume is not how they normally come when you buy decorations. Also, so many of them strewn about look real, along with notebooks and newspapers.
Update – another photo in the collection is a close-up. They look plenty real.
This made me cry a little. The whole flickr slide show did. It was a beautiful home. A blanket was still draped over a chair. It’s amazingly preserved considering it looks like time stopped in the 1960’s. Why did the residents have to leave? Why couldn’t they take anything with them? Who were the kind neighbors and town people that respectfully didn’t touch a thing? I wish I could go there, pack things up, and send them to family members and loved ones of the owners. Or restore that beautiful place and bring the owners home.
I’m betting someone moved out when their husband died and meant to come back and clean up/ live there again. If someone died there would have been a will/estate/clean up and division.
The owner is probably in her late 90’s being taken care of at a smaller one-story home/nursing home and when she passes away her children will have to clean up this house.
My Grandmother’s house was a lot like this but not quite as upscale, not quite as ruined, and just plain not british.
I don’t know, some of that “amazingly preserved”-ness seemed like it might have been tinkered with a little? The chair, blanket, and newspaper seems a little TOO on the nose to me- as though it had been styled, plus the newspaper doesn’t look particularly old. I’m wondering if the photographer moved a few things around for better composition.
It’s fairly common for things to be arranged like that for better photos by urban explorers. It just takes one person to do it and then everyone afterward will think it was actually left that way (the chair with the blanket and newspaper on it were certainly recently arranged that way). There are a few well-known spots in Pripyat where that is the case is well, as a famous example.
That said – while a lot of it is trashed, there is very clearly a lot of well-preserved stuff in there. A small fortune in vintage collectible stuff. When the house eventually gets cleaned out I hope they don’t just throw out everything.
Located in Scotland ?(the place is called Highland Manor). The rest of the pictures suggest this was an Edwardian family, last one of which dies in the late 60’s. The text accompanying the other pictures sounds like the land is still in ownership. The house left with a fence around it makes this seem like a memorial to the previous owner. See it rather like Miss Haversham’s house in Great Expectations.
And yes these places still do exist in remote places of the UK
I’d go metal-detect the FUCK out of that place. (with a detector tuned to non-ferrous metals)
^Ditto to awjt. I would run the metal detector in the basement for possible caches. And then put on my “8 year old child’s hat” and look for any crawlspaces that my 8 year old self would certainly have investigated and made into a secret room and look for old toys or buried tin boxes, etc. Yeah, having a good imagination is very helpful towards good metal detecting.
Exactly. Look around for caches and stashes, just see what might be seen. Probably go in early morning hours and see if stuff is around the grounds too.
Don’t forget to check for traps.
this hurts my soul. All those books ]:
Probably once someone’s pride and joy, so sad.
awjt & Randwulf – just because no one is taking care of it doesn’t mean it’s yours to take.
Agreed. Enough romanticizing trespassers already.
I didn’t say I’d take anything… just that I’d metal detect the fuck out of that place.
Logolepsy’s first link (above in the comments) started out with the following text:
“Skeleton Key had informed me prior to visiting this manor that it is guarded by a huge bull that could free roam outside the building, although hearing what he was saying I hadn’t really given it much thought.(what harm can a cow with horns do, right?) Once getting onto the site and wondering the grounds I’d spotted it, Now this ‘cow with horns’ was very real and I didn’t hang about to find out what it thought of me. I swear this thing was the size of a small car!
It was time to back up and just take a more blattent route and risk being caught and yep… That’s exactly what happened. As we made our way out of bull territory I’d been spotted by someone driving down the private drive, “what are you doing here?” I chucked out the old “I’m looking for my dog” excuss. No suprise he wasn’t happy and told me to piss off out the way I came in.
Not giving up up though we headed back for our second attempt which happend to work out perfectly and we soon found ourselves inside.”
And some of the comments at that link thanked the poster for letting them know there was a way around the precautions that had been set up to keep them out of the home.
Clearly not an abandoned property; going in even just to take photos is still knowingly trespassing.
Yes, it clearly is trespassing in the sense of the law. But also as clear is that no one is living, or has lived here for a very long time. Is it really such a terrible crime that someone has entered and taken beautiful photographs?
But of course, no one should take any of it. Much better to let it rot and crumble.
Agreed. “The object of the game is to be as honest as the law allows.” If you approached the owners with a straight “I’d like to do a photo essay on the building” request, you might well be able to get permission.
If you insist on trespassing, don’t complain if you get caught.
Theft and trespassing are different things, I think.
E T – Put down that waving finger over what is a merely hypothetical situation because personally, in reality, I wouldn’t even be on the property unless I had permission. If permission were granted then an arrangement would be made with the owner(s) on how to split any finds. While I find that I have a certain fascination for urban exploration pics like this because it sparks the imagination as to what the untold stories behind them are, urban exploration is not something I would ever indulge in.
I thought things like this only existed in children’s stories, or Dickens.
What a shame to see books decaying, with some distant owner’s permission, these books could populate a dozen Little Free Libraries!
There’s plenty of room for poignancy in these photos, but if you zoom in on the photos you can read a lot of the titles, and with very few exceptions they are NOT books that you, I, or anyone living today would find much use for. (And the ones you would are mostly available on Project Gutenberg or in $1.99 editions.)
Books, including very old books, have enormous symbolic value, but the vast majority of them are almost immediately useless to the overwhelming majority of their potential readership, and the vast majority of the rest are readily available for the rest of eternity. If you don’t believe me, call a good-sized rare book dealer and ask how many 18th-century books you could get for $100 if you started at the bottom of their price list. (I mean books that were printed in the 1700s, not modern reprintings.) On the whole, they’ll be cheaper than a remaindered Harry Potter hardcover.
I totally get the same antiquarian buzz looking at these shelves. But their main value at this point is in lending a sense of mystery to urban-exploration jaunts like this. Beyond that there’d be no shame in sending these straight to the compost pile, and no point in trying to fill up library shelves with them.
A good read sort of on this same subject–
I Can’t Believe You’re Throwing Out Books!
Honestly, the books she gives as examples are books I would love to have. I would be amazing to read these books on “jobs for women” and “high school satanists.”
Of course I’m not a high school librarian but as a scholar of USA culture I would certainly like to have those even if as just conversation pieces.
I’m sure there are copies at the library of Congress and other collection. But they belong not necessarily in a public library.
But antiquarian book dealers and collectors (like metal detector(ist)s?) collect for the odd rare find – the incunabula hidden amongst all the 17th and 18th century stuff or an unaccounted for first folio. That’s the real buzz!
I’d LOVE to have those bookcases. Whine.
As would I.
Am I the only one who couldn’t help thinking “Ruined Book…Ruined Book…A Dance in the Fire vol 4…Ruined Book…”?
It looks like a painting, and a great one indeed.. As a librarian I feel sad knowing it’ s an abandoned library.
This is TOTALLY a room in Silent Hill Origins!
I’m thinking about the care, planning and resources to devote to the storage of books. Obviously, the person (?) family (?) had a real relationship with books…the potboilers and the history tomes. Doesn’t it make you want to catalog them?
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