First a bit of context: at nineteen I discovered Jacques Barzun and have benefited from his wisdom ever since. Reading his books introduced me to new wonders – his own and those of others. Admiration for his style, wit, and critical judgment kept me coming back for more … of his books, his leading articles, and the works of artists, authors, and musicians he praises. After a dozen years or so of such sampling, I came to believe that Barzun deserved to be better known. I recognized too how difficult it would be to clearly see his work from the great number and variety of perspectives he affords. I began to gather his works, using Virgina Xanthos Faggi’s selected bibliography in From Parnassus (1976) as a checklist. And the wonders only increased as I read more of his books, reviews, translations, and essays. Along the way I updated her bibliography, expanding the earlier selections while adding scores of items published after 1976.
When HarperCollins published A Jacques Barzun Reader in 2002, the jacket announced that its editor, Michael Murray, was at work on a biography of Barzun. Delighted at the news, I offered Mr. Murray the use of my bibliographic database and tabbed collection. He modestly calls his recently published portrait of Jacques a “helpful introduction,” inviting other writers to examine Barzun’s career and works in detail. I hope to assist them, too, from contemporaries to future generations. Barzun’s example and works will stand the test of time.
What next? The bibliography has grown by about 300 items since I last provided Mr. Murray with an updated version. That enlargement continues as more publications bring their archives online and whenever I get a chance to scroll through microfilm for others that no longer publish. I also expect to discover more when opportunity allows another visit to Columbia University, especially its Rare Book and Manuscript Library. So one continuing project is a complete Barzun bibliography.
The latest effort is just getting started. Michael Murray has returned my Barzuniana, which survived cross country shipments to and fro, a trip by road and barge to Alaska, and two additional waterborne moves. The convenience of a concentrated collection for Barzun students like me would be a frustrating loss in the event of fire, sinking or natural disaster. So the next project is to digitally preserve the collection. I will gradually turn my originals or copies of articles into portable document format (pdf) files for safe keeping on disks and in cloud storage.
Having set these goals, I look forward to rediscovering the contents. Barzun’s brilliance is my reward for enduring such bibliographic and archival tedium. (Encouragement from readers of these pages and posts would also be welcome.) During that process, I plan to post – with subjects tagged – about items scanned or added to the bibliography. With luck, the pleasures I rediscover may be added to your own.