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A Reading Room With a View

Inside the Renaissance-style library of a voracious bibliophile.


Photographs by Annie Schlechter

Donald Oresman can’t say exactly how many books line the shelves of his midtown pied-à-terre. What he does know is that the selection here makes up but a fraction of the 10,000 or so tomes he’s amassed over the years (the rest are stored in his house in Larchmont). In the late sixties, during his tenure as executive vice-president and general counsel to Gulf & Western, Oresman and his wife bought this one-­bedroom overlooking Central Park South in the landmarked Gainsborough Studios. The place was “awful,” says architect Richard Sammons of Fairfax & Sammons. “It looked like a racquetball court—cold and gloomy.” To brighten things up, Sammons designed a Renaissance-era library using pale maplewood instead of darker, more traditional mahogany or teak. It took about nine months to add the coffered ceiling and replace the original space’s white and mirrored walls with a mezzanine gallery and library built to house some 2,000 books and 1,800 works of art. Oresman, a lifelong reader and son of a magazine editor, said it was never his intention to create a shrine to his books. “I am not a collector, and I am not interested in books as objects,” he says, adding that books are meant to be read. He buys most of his from Madison Avenue’s Crawford Doyle Booksellers, and when he can’t find what he’s looking for there, he’ll have his son help him find it online. Oresman doesn’t own a computer, a cell phone, or anything that starts with an i, for that matter. “I am happy,” he says, “to live in the nineteenth century.”

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