How would you spend $1,000,000,000? Buy a few yachts and sail the world? Buy a baseball team? Jay Walker made a fortune when he started Priceline.com and instead of blowing it like a washed up sports star Walker started collecting eye-grabbing historical objects for the library of his New England home. Over the year’s the collection, dubbed the Library of Human Imagination, has grown into something epic that rivals any museum on Earth. the 3,600 square foot, three story facility features multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, glass-paneled bridges, dynamic lighting and is bursting at the seams with artifacts that would make The Most Interesting Man In The World jealous.
Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer … is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.
Today we take a look at a very small sample of what Jay Walker has acquired over the years and tip our cap to a man who is spending his heard earned money to preserve history and celebrate human invention.
Flag flown to the Moon and back on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing.
A full skeleton of a juvenile raptor.
A first edition Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1768.
A clutch of fossilized dinosaur eggs.
Two pages from a Cellarius, the first celestial atlas with the Sun at the center of the solar system.
Photograph of Abraham Lincoln from his first presidential campaign.
A globe of the Moon signed by 10 of the 12 astronauts to have walked on its surface.
The Lidless Eye of Sauron on a first edition binding of The Lord of the Rings, made by Philip Smith.
The Uranometer, the last great celestial star atlas produced in 1800, hand painted.
Box of replacement eyes from the American Civil War.
A leaf from a 1440 Illuminated Flemish Book of Hours.
An Egyptian wooden sarcophagus (approx. 1800 BC).
An original backup of the first artificial space satellite, Sputnik.
A page from a Bills of Mortality summarizing the week’s deaths from the plague year of 1667.
A miniaturist’s on-site painting of one of Napoleon’s battles (one of a series commissioned by Napoleon).
A lunar module surface checklist that astronauts took with them on the Apollo 16 mission.
Congressional Space Medal of Honor given posthumously to Edward Higgins White, who died in a pre-launch test of the first mission to the moon.
Early 17th century atlas title page.
A Gilroy hand-colored political cartoon from London made in 1799.
A field surgeon’s kit from the American Civil War.
A royal hand-painted copy of King George IV from his coronation album (circa 1834)
Maseigni’s life-size engravings of the human body, hand-painted in 1806.
Ivory carving from the cover of a 15th century bible.
Hand-painted illustration of Noah’s Ark from the Nuremburg Chronicles, the first illustrated history book (circa 1493).
A French map from 1692 that depicts California as an island.
“Original thinking is the hardest work there is; it is also the most rewarding.”