“Perhaps twelve is the best age to read Dorian Gray: I devoured the book like strawberries.’’ (55)
Harold Acton, Memoirs of an aesthete
Considering that private libraries can easily fall victims to dispersion and fragmentation of their collections — perpetrated either by the same owners during their lifetime or by their heirs after — the La Pietra Library is in a surprisingly intact shape. We know that upon the death of his father in 1953 and then of his mother in 1962, Harold Acton made it his mission in life to preserve the family estate and art collection in Villa La Pietra, so the books must have been no less worthy to him.
Overall, these volumes are in very good conditions and are also, for the most part, in their original locations on the shelves and rooms of the villa. In fact, the book collection is spread out in five rooms: the Main Library and Studiolo on the ground floor; the Director’s Office on the second floor; the Upstairs Library and Garret on the top floor. While the Main Library, Studiolo and Upstairs Library are original locations left as is upon Harold’s death in 1994, the books in the Director’s Office and Garret are in “secondary” locations, i.e. reshelved from storage spaces in the villa.
On the ground floor library rooms, a distinguishable spatial division of the Acton family book collection between ‘leisure’ and ‘serious’ reading recalls the typical division of spaces in the Victorian house between the ‘living room’ library, where the family congregated and the guests were entertained, and the study/drawing room where scholarly work was done.