BENEFACTORS OF HUMANITY
As an item Taylor and Burton were notoriously on and off. In one of the “on” periods, in a brilliantly original homage to her husband’s youthful erudition and the means of its acquisition, Elizabeth Taylor commissioned agents to seek out and purchase copies of every title in the Everyman’s books—a commission exhibiting great imagination on the part of Elizabeth Taylor and requiring no small expenditure of time and effort on that of her book agents. She then had the whole lot rebound in bright full leather and presented the library to her inamorato.
Rebinding an Everyman’s title in full leather is perhaps just a little like serving a Big Mac on Spode porcelain. It’s not exactly illegal, but the very idea is sufficiently preposterous to induce a thrill of transgression. Ethically, perhaps, Ms. Taylor’s sumptuous gift cannot escape the opprobrium due most displays of conspicuous consumption. But at the imaginative and artistic levels, it is much more like a Fabergé Easter egg for the czarina than the necklace for the tootsie in Pretty Woman. That is, there was more to it than just money.
After Burton’s death the library was auctioned, with the spoils shared by a number of dealers keen on “association copies.” Individual volumes have now begun to recycle through the second-hand market. Terry Seymour is in the lead here, as on all other aspects of Everyman collecting; but there is a brief window of opportunity for readers of "Gladly Lerne, Gladly Teche". There are a few items currently available on Abebooks.com. You should not move, of course, without consulting Seymour’s definitive collectors’ guide and the account of the major library exhibition he mounted in Chapel Hill (http://www.lib.unc.edu/spotlight/2008/everymans.html) in 2008.