Think About It

Dealing with My Temptation

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | May 12, 2012

“I have gone to this bookshop for years, always finding one book I wanted—and then three more I hadn’t known I wanted.”
Mary Ann Shaffer

Over the years I have battled and battled a certain temptation which I find almost impossible to resist.  All I need is a passing glimpse and a siren call deep within me pulls me toward it like a magnet.  My pulse rate picks up.  I forget what I am doing and where I am going.  I hardly even think about what it will cost me. 

No, I am not speaking of the use of alcohol or drugs.  I am referring to what happens when I pass a bookstore.  I can’t resist going inside.  It doesn’t matter if I am in an airport between short layovers or on a sidewalk hurrying somewhere or even while driving from here to there.  When I see a bookstore, I can hardly help myself.  I must step inside.  I must.  It will only take a minute.  I must get my hands on just one more good book.

Well, it happened again a few weeks ago when Evie and I were driving home from Longwood Gardens via Route 52 just on the edge of West Chester, PA.  It was a warm spring day and we were enjoying the beautiful scenery of Chester County when we rounded a bend and there our eyes feasted on the sign “Baldwin’s Book Barn.”  Something automatically took over the steering wheel of our car.  Even our Buick had been successfully seduced by the lure of yet another hallowed place, another bookstore. 

We soon discovered that yielding to that temptation was one of the best things we did that day because Baldwin’s Book Barn is not just another bookstore.  In 1934 William Baldwin and his wife, Lilla, began what is now one of America’s most distinctive book stores.  Located in the Revolutionary War area of southern Chester County, the five story stone barn was first built by Quakers Brinton and Sarah Darlington in 1822. 

As we stepped inside we couldn’t believe our eyes.  An old potbellied stove sat right in the middle of the first room with antique furniture and old books surrounding it.  As our eyes adjusted to the light and we breathed in the rich aromas, we were on sensory overload. 

A brochure explains that “The Barn,” as it is called locally, “holds over 300,000 books and manuscripts, art, antiques, ephemera, and one-of-a-kind items for your enjoyment and purchase.”  We immediately altered whatever it was we were going to do (oh yes, we were driving somewhere on Route 52) to allow our souls to be fed.  It was as though time had literally stopped.

After a short, pleasant exchange with the man behind the counter, we took the map he gave us of each floor to help us navigate the old barn.  You could find there almost any kind of book you would want.  And they were all neatly organized with clear labels for easy recognition.  Children’s books.  Gardening.  Etiquette.  Civil War.  Photography.  Art History.  Toys.  Business.  Business History.  Old West.  Archaeology.  Religion.  Railroads.  And so many more.

Up and down the steps we went.  There was so much to see and so little time to see it.  I agree with Reese Witherspoon who said, “I get crazy in a bookstore.  It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything.”

We also met John Baldwin, the owner, who graciously described how as a young man he helped his father carry boxes and boxes of books in and out of “The Barn.”  People who have a passion for books always have lots and lots in common. 

Henry Ward Beecher knew of this temptation when he said, “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?”  We finally had to leave but not without four old books under my arm and a determination sometime soon to return. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu

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