Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2017 Issue

MONA. This Is Not Your Typical Library Story


The new MONA (image from MONA).

A three-story circular library has been proposed to house the collection of one of the more unusual book collectors you will ever find. His name is David Walsh, and he built his fortune the way virtually none of the other millions of visitors to Las Vegas did – by gambling. He devised some sort of system while there as a young man whereby he can keep the odds just 1% in his favor. Just keep betting with these odds over and over again and you can't help, in time, but to amass a fortune.


Some unusual combination of flamboyant, reclusive, and eccentric, Walsh comes from the other side of the world (unless you are Australian as is he). At the beginning of this decade, he built a museum and library in his hometown of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. It is known as MONA, the Museum of New and Old Art. Planned is a massive expansion, which, along with the larger library and museum, will house a hotel, conference center, casino, auditorium, theater, restaurant, retail spaces, spa and outdoor stage. Sticking with the MONA-like acronyms, the hotel is known as HOMO (HOtel at MOna), the outdoor area HOBO (HOBart Odour). Walsh hosts an annual festival known as MONA FOMA (Museum of New and Old Art: Festival Of Music and Art), or MOFO for short. I am not making any of this up.


Walsh came up with a unique solution to the problem of "reverberations" coming from the theater disturbing those in the seven floors of hotel space above. Rather than a lot of insulation, the hotel will be built on something of a suspension bridge above the rest of the structure. As such it looks sort of like a bridge, or more specifically, the Golden Gate Bridge turned upside down. It will be colored the same as its right side up counterpart in San Francisco.


While the new MONA will be bigger, better, and mostly above ground (the current museum and library are primarily below ground), it is still named the Museum of Old and New Art. Does the library play second fiddle? Not according to the MONA website. It informs us that more than art, "David Walsh is mad about books." It then goes on to describe how Walsh developed his interest in books and details about the library. It is like no other library description you have seen.


The library is essentially David Walsh's personal collection, now 11,000 volumes strong. The website explains, "Our collection reflects David Walsh's tastes (which are both prolific and eclectic; as a kid he had no friends, so decided to dedicate his small life to reading, in Dewey order, the entirety of the Glenorchy City Library)." The library now "boasts (literally, he boasts about it quite a lot) around 11,000 titles in a range of formats, covering topics such as architecture, science, philosophy, statistics, literature, mathematics, ancient Egypt, and African art; as well as wine, beer, betting odds, religion, socialism, sex, and that old chestnut—death."


A major part of the library concerns the artists whose work appears in the museum. However, in recent years, Walsh has become interested in rare signed editions, though not really knowing why a book being signed makes it special. For some unclear reason, he thinks it is somehow related to religious observance, a "hangover" from his Catholic upbringing. The site continues, "The fruits of his Catholic guilt include: a first edition Lolita, an early edition of The Origin Of Species, signed editions by Umberto Eco, J.G. Ballard, and Hunter S. Thompson, and hand-written documents by Balzac, Whitman, Flaubert, Einstein, Newton, Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell."


You will also find a book in the library written by Mr. Walsh. The title is A Bone of Fact. The site notes, "David wrote a book once. For about a year after it was published, any time anyone asked him anything (Why did you build the museum? Where are the toilets?) he would answer, ‘It’s in the book.’" It is for sale, but, "If you really are that much of a cheap f*cker, you can read a copy for free in our library." Actually, you can read whatever is in the library. It is open to researchers and the public, but you may not borrow the books and take them home. You need to read them on the premises.


The estimated cost of the new structure is $300 million. That's Australian currency, not quite American dollars, but still about US $225 million. Presuming the necessary approvals are granted, completion is expected in 2022.


As for David Walsh, along with flamboyant, reclusive, and eccentric, we can add one more. He has an unusual, but wonderful sense of humor (or "humour" in Australian).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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