A Portrait of a Ranch’s Library

Continuing my series on people’s personal libraries, I photographed the books at my Aunt Eva’s ranch in New Mexico. Her parents, my grandparents, as well as her grandparents also lived on a ranch. She has a number of old family books stored in her workshop, in cabinets to keep the dust off them. Her library is spread out, to different rooms, different buildings, and spans generations. She owns books from her father and grandfather. They have been folded into her library easily, and referred to often by multiple readers.

Books, library, workshop
A close-up of the books in the cabinet.

books, workshop, library

Here’s a book that my great-grandfather originally owned. You can see how much it was referred to. Someone attempted to tape the pages back together. There were various pages that were marked with impromptu bookmarks and other pages just naturally fell open due to the spine being broken from repeated use. Because this book is so worn in so many places, it was comforting to touch. I felt connected to the people who previously used it. Going through someone else’s worn books is so revealing: you see what was important to them. You also understand what this book meant to them, how different times were, when you couldn’t call a repair man, when you had to order a book through the mail, when you taped and retaped pages because you couldn’t buy another copy of the book, for whatever reason.

My grandfather ordered these books and used them frequently. The Audels Plumbers and Steam Fitter Guide came in a series.

These books were also ordered by my grandfather, the Audels Masons and Builders Guide. My Aunt still uses them for reference: we found a John Deere card as an impromptu bookmark. Additionally, we found another impromptu bookmark. She was looking at how to build a cement wall with large rocks.

My Aunt also has books in her ranch: when she built her addition, she created a built-in bookshelf:

She also has a huge collection of old National Geographic magazines. She still refers to them when she becomes curious about something. Her brother also used to read and reread them.

She also has a number of cookbooks stored in her kitchen:


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