Friday, November 8, 2019

Words, words, words in Heaven and Hell

From The Writer’s Almanac: On this day in 1731a group of young men in Philadelphia pooled their money to set up the first library in America. The idea for a library came about when Benjamin Franklin started a club with about 50 friends so they could debate about politics, morality, and the natural sciences. The group was called the Club of Mutual Improvement. When they disagreed about a topic, they liked to consult books. But books were expensive in those days, so they combined their resources to found a subscription library. They called it the Philadelphia Library Company. The rule was that any "civil gentleman" could browse through the volumes, but only subscribers were allowed to borrow them. The library expanded over the years. Later it moved to Carpenter's Hall, the building where the First Continental Congress met in 1774. Franklin said that after the library opened, "reading became fashionable, and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books."

Personal Postscript — For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed libraries. The enjoyment began when I was four years old, and it continues unabated nearly seventy years later. My idea of Heaven includes a massive library and time enough to read every word ever written and published. My idea of Hell includes the same scenario but broken bifocals. If you remember the episode of The Twilight Zone in which Burgess Meredith’s character is left as the last man on Earth — he survives a nuclear holocaust and has time enough to read but has no glasses with which to read — you will understand. 


1 comment:

  1. haha; i remember that episode: true irony... Benjamin Franklin should have been entitled father of the country instead of george w.... libraries are the refuge of the serious and the only repository of sanity in a crazy world...

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