Summary Unpacking My Library: A Speech on Collecting by Benjamin Franklin


Unpacking My Library: A Speech on Collecting

“Unpacking My Library: A Speech on Collecting,” was written by Walter Benjamin in the year 1931. In this essay he talks about the readers’ relationship to their books. Benjamin was moving from the house and life that he shared with his wife and stayed in a small furnished apartment. There he lived an isolated life. He narrates the experience in his personal library and out of the heaps in which they had been inaccessibly stored for the previous two years. He has a large number of books but there is no enough space in the room for those volumes. So, he is identifying the value of each book.

Benjamin describes an important fact about the academic life. The journey of collecting books and documents during scholarly life are momentous not for their subjects, but of our selves. A project involves collection of data and understanding of the text. Same way Benjamin in unpacking his library was able to find a new order and meaning in his shelves.

 He talks about the different ways of possessing books. The first way involves borrowing a book and then not returning it. Students buy their textbook in a bookshop. A man purchases a book for his lover as a present.  Some purchase book to read in their train journey. A collector is much more planned in his purchasing methods. They have a great experience about the place where they can get books, the antique shops. Apart from buying books in stores auctions are another ground for buying books. But this method is more dangerous as the collector needs to pay great attention not only to the books but also to other bidders.

At the end of this essay Benjamin returns to his past memories. Each book reminds him of the place in which he bought it. The past layout of his life is coming before him. He recalls his childhood days spend in Berlin and Paris. Tyler Cowen claims that we buy books in order to enhance our sense of self. Benjamin states that the relationship of the book collector will have a less understanding compared to the original collector “the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner,”. Thus the writer brings out the bliss found in a book collector.



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