Philip Roth — Newark’s most celebrated literary son — has bequeathed his entire personal library to his “first other home.”
The renowned author has bequeathed the more than 3,500 volumes he has collected from 1950 to the present — many with his marginal notes and underlinings — to The Newark Public Library, where they will form the contents of the Philip Roth Personal Library.
“My decision to locate my personal library in Newark and, specifically, in the Newark Public Library was determined by a longstanding sense of gratitude to the city where I was born,” said Roth.
Roth has a strong connection to the city and its public library, which played a significant role in his life, especially throughout his youth in Newark’s largely Jewish Weequahic section. Looking back, he describes himself as a “library intoxicated” young man whose interest in reading and writing was formed at the library. The building on Washington Street played a key role in his first novel, Goodbye, Columbus, as the workplace of protagonist Neil Klugman. Roth also conducted extensive research for his American Trilogy in the library’s New Jersey Room.
The Roth library will be housed in a separate room on the second floor designed by architect Henry Myerberg. According to a release, the space “will have the feel of a library and a home, a place to experience books and a comfortable setting for study and seminar discussions.”
“The Philip Roth Personal Library is an extraordinary gift that will touch vast numbers of people now and in the future. It will be an invaluable cultural and literary resource for the City of Newark and a beacon for students, scholars, educators, and writers from around the world,” said Timothy Crist, Newark Public Library board president. “Just as Mr. Roth found inspiration for his writing at the Newark Public Library, we know that his extraordinary gift will inspire others to do the same.”
In addition to his books, Roth is donating his custom-made writing desks and Eames reading chairs so that visitors can experience where he read and wrote his novels, as well as his large refectory table, which will be used for student seminars and discussions. Visitors will be able to use the books, but will not be able to check them out.
In reflecting on the impact that the library had upon him as a college student, Roth stated, “During that first year at Newark Rutgers, during the many hours each day when I didn’t have classes, the stacks and the reference room and the reading rooms of the main library were where I camped out when I wanted a quiet place to be alone to read or to study or to look something up. It was my other Newark home. My first other home.”