I joined the Mercantile Library last December, as a Christmas present to myself (and 2 friends). It took me til February to actually enter the door. And until May to wander the stacks and take out books.
I started out looking for some mysteries that Joseph-Beth didn’t carry, so I started in the fiction Bs. Found what I was looking for – 5 different books by that author – and then a couple of actual hard boiled detectives from the 30s, one of which had not been taken out since before I was born.
This time, I decided I was hungry for travel narrative and was duly pointed toward a long row of shelves in the actual body of the library – not the appropriately gloomy stacks. Found My Ireland by Lord Dunsany (of whom I’ve only heard, never read), published in 1937 and not taken out since 1950. And nearby – an astonishment. Portraits of Places by Henry James (who knew he wrote travel narrative?? not I), copyright 1883, published in 1884. A fragile book and tattered, last taken out in the year of my birth, so says the stamp in the front.
The helpful librarian put on the customary bright yellow Mercantile cover, and then put a string around the whole thing, to hold it together. I was amazed to even be allowed to remove it from the hallowed confines.
What a delight is the Mercantile. I heartily endorse this accessible and splendid trip back in time.