In Praise of Books

Howton Grove Priory: unpacking the library
Howton Grove Priory: unpacking the library

After the oratory or place set aside for prayer and worship, the library is probably the most important part of any Benedictine monastery. Ours began with just a handful of books but has grown over the years, so that it now fills (or rather will fill) the calefactory (photo above), several other parts of the house and the garage. Thanks to a kind benefactor and some diligent saving on our part, we have been able to install some purpose-built bookshelves in the calefactory to house our most important theological works; so now the work of unpacking the library boxes can begin.

There is something very comforting about the presence of books. As we unpack each one, it is greeted like an old friend and welcomed onto its destined shelf. Books have personalities which go beyond their contents. The binding, the paper, the typeface, all convey so much, to say nothing of the pencilled marginalia which recall the efforts to understand, engage with or dispute the arguments of the author. It will be some while before the library at Howton Grove Priory is shelved and catalogued as it should be, but in the meantime, how good it is to have our books back among us!

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