This huanghuali wood traveling bookcase (a “tushu shinggui” if you want to use Japanese)
sold recently for $47,000 at Christie’s. It’s picture had been bouncing around the blogosphere for a while, complete with comments about how beautiful it is. The stain really brings out the wood grain, and it look like the doors were cut from the same board. Which isn’t surprising, given that it dates from the early 1600s. It’s a very simple piece, with very little ornamental woodwork. The metal work is also very simple, but together they make a very elegant package. Unfortunately, there are no photos online of the box’s interior. Inside it contains two small drawers (for writing instruments?) and a single shelf.
When I first saw the bookcase, I immediately thought of another traveling bookcase, the USLHE traveling library. Both are similar in both form and function. (The tushu shinggui is undoubtedly better looking though.) The USLHE libraries were government owned crates of books that were issued on a rotating basis to lighthouses. Every so many weeks, when the lighthouse was resupplied, the libraries would be switched.
Both of these bookcases remind me of my media cabinet. Again, it’s the general shape. Of course my cabinet was designed to hold CDs and DVDs, not books, nor was it it meant to be particularly mobile. Still, they both store media compactly behind closed doors.
The federal government is selling this Spring, the Diamond Shoals Light Station 13 miles off of Cape Hatteras, NC. Two floors. 5000 square feet of living space. 360 degree ocean views. Real fixer-up-er. All bids considered.
Clearly it’s seen better days. It’s billed as a “Texas Tower”, but it’s not an offshore radar station, and being inside territorial waters, you can’t even pull a Sealand.
I guess the only practical reason for buying this would be for salvage, but I do like the idea having one of these as an ultimate fort.
In the 1970s the Soviet government, built a series of lighthouses around the Arctic Circle to aid in navigation. Since these were built in the most godforsaken parts of Siberia, they were not only automated, but nuclear powered. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, people began to strip them for metal, including the radiation shielding.
When I read about this. I couldn’t help but think of Russia’s floating nuclear power plants, perhaps plying the seas past the lighthouses.
But, what I really think of when I see the sea ravaged edifice is something out of a Life Without People episode. Nuclear powered autonomous lighthouses guiding nuclear powered autonomous ships to ports, where where they are loaded with ore from continuous conveyors, that are supplied by autonomous freight trains, until the day that there’s just nothing left to load on the trains, or on the ships, and the entire system shuts down and rusts.