Literary collections speak volumes
On a tour through Scotland’s southern countryside, John Paulus and his wife, Carol, stopped in Edinburgh at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House.
John had seen a photo of the 18th Century author’s two-story library and as the tour guide led the couple through the rooms, they came upon a side door that opened up into Scott’s study. Seeing the layout of the space in person further impressed Paulus.
“That night over dinner in Edinburgh, I said to my wife, ‘I would like to have a room like that,’” John recalled.
The couple had just begun building a spectacular home in Petoskey’s Bay Harbor, yet Paulus couldn’t think of a way to fit a library like Scott’s into their house, because it had already been designed.
“My wife drew it on the napkin. It was her idea to put it on the front of the already designed library,” Paulus said. “And that’s what inspired the extra, second library room.”
That was back in 1998, when building by Kane Construction began on the Paulus home and Creative Millwork in Harbor Springs started designing the library. Today, the Pauluses’ library is a jaw-dropper.
The main-level library is just under 1,000 square feet, and the two-story room, with a beckoning spiral staircase to the upper level, is 1,500, for 2,500 total library square footage.
It would probably be impossible to count the number of books in the Paulus’ collection, but the titles span centuries, from “The Odyssey of Homer” and timeless Shakespeare to a collection of Ian Fleming’s “007” spy thrillers and art histories on Renoit, Pissarro and Van Gogh. Jules Verne, Henry David Thoreau, “Grapes of Wrath,” Joseph Heller, Fitzgerald, Tolkein — it’s all here.
A reader is truly in their element in the Paulus collection, amongst classics like “The Red Badge of Courage,” “The Count of Monte Cristo” and Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”
“I never buy anything that I don’t intend to read,” said John, who noted the reading hobby is mostly his while Carol enjoys activities like golf. “I buy more than I can read.”
Having the time to settle in with a good book helps with a collection like this one. Paulus is a retired chief economist for Morgan Stanley in New York who commuted for years from the family’s home in Connecticut.
He is a Petoskey native, hence the connection to Bay Harbor and Northern Michigan. John and Carol, both 64, have four adult children and six grandkids. “I have very deep roots in the Petoskey area,” said John.
The couple’s Bay Harbor manor was completed in 2000, and they winter in Naples, Fla., where Paulus was reached via phone.
“I’m standing in my other library right now,” he said. “It can be frustrating to have two, because you can’t have two of every book. I have to remember which books are where.”
Upon his retirement 15 years ago, the first thing he set out to read was Durants’ 11-volume “The Story of Civilization.” With a PhD in economics, his collection includes old college textbooks amid the fiction he views as a “reward” for plowing through more serious works. The main library room, with a fireplace and stately furniture, is stocked mostly with collections of beautiful leather-bound antiquarian volumes.
“I was trying to think of what to put on the walls,” John said, “and my wife said, ‘You don’t need anything on the walls. The books are the artwork.’”
His favorites include Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” and “David Copperfield,” “stuff you read in high school, but after your reading interests mature and you go back and read some of that, you understand why it’s so special.”
Biographies on the likes of Winston Churchill and other political leaders and historical looks at World War II can be found among the stacks alongside commentary by Robert Novak and Ann Coulter.
Up the spiral staircase is Paulus’ escape, where a cigar and a good book make for a storied setting in the dramatic library layout.
“If I want to get lost for an hour,” Paulus said, “it’s a perfect spot.”
A common plotline among literary collectors seems to be a passion for history. In Richard and Diane Clark’s cozy Petoskey library, Richard’s reading hobby concentrates on the people and events that have shaped the world.
“I don’t like fluff,” said Richard. “I read some fiction, but mostly I read nonfiction. My favorite is reading on the Civil War, because of the tragedy. It was Americans becoming Americans.”
Clark says his background as Novi’s mayor and a lawyer, practicing for 38 years downstate before retiring and moving north two years ago, has shaped his literature preference, with factual accounts of some of the nation’s and world’s most prominent leaders, like Winston Churchill, at the forefront.
His collection of about 1,000 books, stacked double-deep in his loft library space, includes many volumes about American history and the Civil War in particular. “Our country was born as the result of revolution,” noted Clark, who teaches Introduction to American government at North Central Michigan College. His collection often serves as a catalyst for classroom instruction as well, with titles such as “Rebels and Redcoats” and “Lincoln’s Melancholy.” He also belongs to a military book club through which he satiates his sense of patriotism.
The Clark shelves also include works about Christianity, philosophy and novels by C.S. Lewis. “‘On Being Christian’ is the only book I’ve had to read with a dictionary next to me,” Clark said.
At the time of this interview, Clark was reading Bertrand Russell’s “The ABC of Relativity” and C.
S. Lewis’ volume on pain and what it has to teach. “Each one of his books makes you think,” said Clark.
Diane Clark is a reader herself, though not as avid as her husband. She’s a member of McLean & Eakin’s Wednesday book club, while Richard takes part in the Second Saturday Salon reading group that meets at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital. There, he learns about other good reads to add to his already impressive compilation.
“He fell in love with books when he was young,” said Clark’s wife of nearly 40 years. “He treasures his books.”
He also treasures his six grandchildren, adding, “I have the complete Harry Potter collection, too. I’ve got to keep up with the grandkids.” HL