Against the backdrop of Walter Benjamin's famous essay, “Unpacking My Library” (1931), this article, by the Librarian of the Warburg Institute, tells the story of the many times that the Warburg Library has been packed and unpacked. First it was the private collection of Aby Warburg, later a public institution, originally in Hamburg (in the 1920s) and then in London from 1933 to the present. This essay also explores the various ways in which books have been — and continue to be — acquired by the Warburg Library, including publication (both individual and institutional), donation, recommendation, and purchase. Each of these methods is not only discussed but also examined in light of Benjamin's account of the acquisition of his own library. Moreover, Benjamin's view that collections lose their meaning when they cease to be personal is challenged by the example of the Warburg Library, which has been transformed from a private collection containing around 15,000 books in 1911 to a public institution today housing over 350,000 volumes, while still maintaining its unique character.
Jill Kraye; UNPACKING THE WARBURG LIBRARY. Common Knowledge 1 January 2012; 18 (1): 117–127. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-1456917
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