Stephen Levy toured the personal library of Priceline founder Jay Walker and discovered nerdvana: a wunderkammer piled to the rafters with the most pricelessly awesome nerd artifacts of all time -- an original Sputnik, the Thing hand from the Addams Family, a globe of the moon signed by every astronaut who's walked on it, an original of Robert Hooke's Micrographia, an Enigma machine, etc. You know, I've often turned my nose up at the absurd excesses of wealth, but this is one guy who knows how to spend several million on really rad junk.
Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker's library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects–on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor–the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer ... is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you–a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.
Browse the Artifacts of Geek History in Jay Walker's Library
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