The antilibrary of Umberto Eco a collection of unread books

18 November 2022

Late Italian medievalist, philosopher, and novelist Umberto Eco amassed a collection of some thirty-thousand books during his life, and can be seen here taking viewers on a short tour of his acquisitions.

But who has time to read that many books? Probably not even the most ardent of readers. But that’s not the reason Eco accumulated so many tomes: he wanted to create an antilibrary. And an antilibrary, as Anne-Laure Le Cunff, writing for Ness Labs explains, is not for the vain — those wanting to show off a vast book collection — but rather, for the curious:

The goal of an antilibrary is not to collect books you have read so you can proudly display them on your shelf; instead, it is to curate a highly personal collection of resources around themes you are curious about. Instead of a celebration of everything you know, an antilibrary is an ode to everything you want to explore.

For sure, the curator of any antilibrary, especially one the size of Eco’s, will not have read every title in the collection, but the books are instead present for reference, a constantly available, off-line, trove of information.


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