Inside a Book Editor’s Legendary Home Library

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Ceiling to floor, every shelf, ledge, and nook is piled high with thousands of books.Photo: Wendy Goodman

As a child growing up, the daughter of a rabbi in Omaha, Madeline Kripke always fantasized about living in a library. Now she is a retired book editor, and her Greenwich Village apartment is somewhat legendary among her scholarly circles for its collection of some 20,000 tomes, stacked on every possible surface and in three warehouse units. (Obscure slang books are of special interest: police slang, vaudeville slang, bebop slang.) She’s been known to walk visitors through her shelves with a flashlight in hand and card catalogue in her head. “l always wanted to be something of an iconoclast,” Kripke says, recalling her urge to break out of her conservative upbringing. “I was a very spirited child.”