We Think We Would Have Really Liked Late Vanderbilt Heir Carter Burden


Recently, when we were moving and realized that our books were the heaviest, most frustratingly tiresome part of the whole process, a friend of ours reminded us that books you’ve already read are just “expensive wallpaper” for yuppies. But for Carter Burden, the late heir to Commodore Vanderbilt’s robber-baron fortune, they were really, really expensive wallpaper. His collection of first-edition American books is regarded as one of the best in the world, and after his death, $10 million in tomes and records were given to the Pierpont Morgan Library. That’s only a portion of his collection, which includes first editions of books by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and partially lines the walls of his eleven-room Fifth Avenue home. Burden is in the news today because his widow, Susan, was allegedly robbed of $1 million of the books by Timothy Smith, a wealthy home-electronics installer who serves as condo-board president in his own building. Carter Burden is probably rolling in his grave at this, but he must have at least understood the impulse. According to the Post, his motto used to be: “You can never be too thin, too rich, or have too many books.”

Society books ‘worm’ [NYP]