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The Books That Made Tufte's Books

“Great books foster, transmit, and preserve forever knowledge,” writes Edward Tufte in Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte. “The books in my research library were always meant to be used: read, skimmed, read aloud, exhibited, photographed, scanned, shared, treasured. And thus my library, which I thought of as The Museum of Cognitive Art, participated intensely in my research, scholarship, writing, teaching, design, artwork.”

And now his curated collection is up for sale, at a December 2, 2010 auction at Christie’s (catalog above) in a lot that is certain to make any collector’s head swim. The quality of antiquarian materials directly and indirectly related to his work in data visualization is stunning: Included are “Interest of the National Debt from the Revolution” found in The Quantitative Display of Visual Information; “Heitengi” (Astronomical Vovelle, 1801) on Japanese astronomy; and Thomas Wilson’s “An Analysis of Country Dancing” (1808).

I understand Tufte’s desire to share his collection (and make some money too), because I am beginning to divest my various holdings (donations to libraries mostly) that have already been turned into books. I also relate to his statement: “With this auction, my research library will gradually turn into open-space land in perpetuity . . .” as he prepares for his next book (Seeing Around, 2013).

The auction will take place at Christie’s in New York City on Dec 2 (Code Name: “Tufte,” Sale Number: 2400. Online bidding can be accessed here. Viewings commence on Nov 27 through Dec 2 (check Christie’s for times).






Read about the dubious virtue of crowd-sourcing logos from yesterday’s DH here.

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