Thursday, February 2, 2012
From his successful business he had assets he could have invested or loaned at profitable rates of interest, but instead he continued to buy books, explaining in his Journal: "How interesting and delightful such reading is and the daily increase in familiarity with such noble literary monuments. When I think back over all my best investments yet made, what I done [sic] in good Books I must consider the Master stroke of all. What a permanent and ever increasing value does such an investment bring..."
Many of the books in Isaac's library are still read today--Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, Gibbon's History of the Roman Empire, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, Cervantes's Don Quixote, monthly issues of "Scientific American" which he had bound. He also collected books of art, philosophy, engineering, law, economics, political theory, logic, travel, and languages. He had reference books about Shakespeare, the Bible, and Dictionaries of words, authors, and artists. Among them all, he seemed to love Shakespeare best. I can picture Isaac sitting in his early dugout, before he had built his house and still lacking a horse to ride to the nearest town, reading Shakespeare by lamplight.
I was so curious about the books Isaac read that I went to some of my favorite used book websites and ordered the oldest editions I could find of titles he had mentioned. I guess you might say that Isaac and I formed a book club! Pictured are the following: Progress & Poverty by Henry George, Twain's Innocents Abroad, A Comprehensive Dictionary of Organ Stops, Classical Antiquities, Cuba with Pen & Pencil, Theory of Spencerian Penmanship, Bain's Logic: Deductive & Inductive, Cooper's Justinian, and The Culture Demanded by Modern Life. The books on art and travel that I would have particularly enjoyed could not be found, but the sampling I read impressed me with Isaac's thirst for knowledge. Surely you can understand why I must tell the story of this remarkable man!
[The stereoscope and views in the photograph belonged to my ancestors. I do know from Isaac's Journal, however, that he visited my great grandparents, Aaron & Susan Beck, and shared his stereoscope views with them.