November 22, 2010
Are you having difficulty figuring out what to buy that special someone? Do you have $600,000 to $800,000 on hand? Well, then you can bid on a first edition of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (Starry Messenger), which is just one lot in next week’s auction “Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte” at Christie’s in New York.
Tufte is a statistician known for his books and lectures on information design. If you’ve ever heard a rant about the evils of PowerPoint, that person is likely channeling Tufte. His amazing collection of books includes several other books by Galileo, Euclid’s Elements and a couple copies of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia. (I would be happy with pretty much anything on the list.)
Why would anyone who had gone to the trouble of amassing such a collection suddenly decide to get rid of it? Well, as Tufte explains on his web site and in the auction catalog, he always meant for these books to be used. And they were, while he was working on his previous books. “My library was always a working library, with the rare books beside my computer as I was writing,” Tufte wrote. “But in the last few years, the books were viewed only when a visitor requested a look at the Galileo, Playfair, or Picasso books, or when I took a nostalgic look in the library.”
I would hope, then, that whoever ends up with these amazing volumes doesn’t let them mold on a shelf somewhere but instead takes the time to page through occasionally and read what they were so lucky to purchase.
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