Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Library Way: John Ruskin and the Good and Bad of Books


Who was John Ruskin? The Ruskin Museum states that, "Ruskin believed in the power of art to transform the lives of people oppressed more by visual illiteracy than by poor material conditions. His passionate desire was to open people’s eyes to the free beauties surrounding them — sunsets, tender dawn light, iridescent feathers, spectacular natural crystals, green leaves against blue sky, clouds, the vitality of Gothic architecture and ornament. His creed was: ‘There is no wealth but life.’"

John Ruskin's quote on Library Way is from his book Sesame and Lilies. Published in 1865, Sesame and Lilies is comprised of two lectures that stress the important connections between society, art and nature. Ruskin also believes that the power of books — good and bad — can transform the lives of people:

For all books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all time. Mark this distinction -- it is not one of quality only. it is not merely the bad book that does not last, and the good one that does. It is a distinction of species: There are good books for the hour, and good ones for all time; bad books for the hour, and bad ones for all time.

In 1996, the New York Public Library, the Grand Central Partnership and the New Yorker Magazine convened a panel of esteemed lovers of the written word and came up with a collection of quotations from the never-ending oeuvre of literature.

These quotes were cast in bronze by New York sculptor Gregg LeFevre and then laid out as sidewalk plaques on E 41st Street in 1998. In 2003, the stretch of E 41st Street from the New York Public Library entrance on Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue was renamed Library Way.

Today we celebrate the birth of John Ruskin — born this day in 1819. Whether it be a birthday, anniversary or publication date of a seminal work, the Bar None Group will revisit these 40+ quotations from time to time — quotations that inspire one to write, read, explore and embrace literature. We last visited Willa Cather.