Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2017 Issue

MONA. This Is Not Your Typical Library Story

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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>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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