His attention was drawn to the huge, empty house, its bare walls, the paintings on the ceiling that were falling into shreds, eaten by mildew. […] They passed other rooms, which were empty or contained the remains of broken furniture thrown in a corner. Naked, dusty light bulbs hung from the ceilings.
The only rooms that seemed to be in use were two interconnecting reception rooms. There was a sliding door between them with coats of arms etched into the glass. It was open, revealing more bare walls, their ancient wallpaper marked by long-gone pictures, and furniture, rusty nails, and fixtures for nonexistent lamps. Above this gloomy scene was a ceiling painted to resemble a vault of clouds with the sacrifice of Isaac in the center.
Beneath the trompe-l’œil sky, dusty French windows, some of the panes replaced with cardboard, led to the terrace and, beyond that, to the garden.
At one end of the vast room was an enormous fireplace with logs piled up in it. There were a pair of unmatched armchairs, a table and sideboard, an oil lamp, two big candlesticks, a violin in its case, and little else. But on the floor, lined up neatly on old, faded, threadbare rugs, as far away as possible from the windows and the leaden light coming through them, lay a great many books; five hundred or more, he estimated, maybe even a thousand. Many codices and incunabula among them. Wonderful old books bound in leather or parchment. Ancient tomes,with studs in the covers, folios, Elzevirs, their bindings decorated with goffering, bosses, rosettes, locks, their spines and front edges covered with gilding and calligraphy done by medieval monks in the scriptoria of their monasteries.