I have a lot of books.. and you probably do, too. But 59,000? Sorry.. no cigar. But, Lawrence L. Thomas found an escape in books, and when he died at 88, his 2500 square foot house in Madison, WI, contained more than 59,000 books.
"The living room had a fortress of books around where he sat and read --
new books which had arrived but had not yet been shelved," says Mary
Winchester, the youngest of Thomas's three children. "Many rooms didn't
have furniture; they had books, stacks of books. But it wasn't like you
walked into the house and thought, 'Holy crap, he's a hoarder!' The
books were very well cared for -- lots of dehumidifiers running all the
time -- and extremely organized. He listed the books in spiral notebooks
with entries like, 'blue room, northeast wall, northernmost stack,
fourth book from the bottom.'"
In accordance with Thomas's wish that a posthumous sale of the books
benefit his three children, the collection went on the block in March.
Collectors were astounded by its magnitude. The proprietor of New York's
Otto Penzler, has his own collection of 57,000 crime novels, and he is
perhaps the world's leading authority on collecting in that genre. He
says, "The Lawrence Thomas collection is the largest I've heard of --
aside from my own obsessive accumulation."
Read this article about our own Mystery Mike (Mike Bursaw) and this collection. He reached an agreement to purchase all of the crime novels -- 49,000 in
total -- and then, in August, he brought in noted crime novel collector
Mike Dillman and George Easter, the editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine,
to Madison to help him sort through the books. "For three long days we
sorted, boxed and counted books, books, books," Easter relates. "The
thrill of the hunt to find the gems among the 'dross' was what made this
experience all worthwhile. And that was a frequent occurrence."