Here is a picture of a small stack of some of the older books that I own. The bottom two books are two of the three volumes of Mant’s Bible, which was published in 1816 “for the use of families” and included expository notes by George D’Oyly and Richard Mant. Unfortunately I do not own the first volume of this set. It is one of my greatest hopes that I will stumble upon it in some bookshop some day. The next book up is Poets of the Nineteenth Century, edited by Robert Wilmott and published in 1869. The little book on top is a copy of the Everyman’s Library edition of The Vision of Dante Alighieri as translated by H.F. Cary and is a 1928 reprint of an edition first printed in 1908. I chose these particular books to put in my little picture, not necessarily for their age but for their beauty. In the time that these books were published a book was still a relatively expensive and esoteric commodity, although the Everyman edition of Dante would have been comparatively cheap seeing as it was aimed at a broader market than the older books might have been. Books then were items prepared with some care, and were viewed as things more permanent than the book of today. As such, even the cheap edition of Dante here is more elegant and pleasing to the eye than the average book one might buy today.
I bring this up, not to bemoan the decline in the beauty of the book. This decline has paved the way for the widespread availability of the book which is a far more important and useful thing. I bring it up to state that I love books. A blog professing to give one an idea of things I come across daily would be sorely incomplete without some mention of books. I truly love books. I don’t mean this in the sense that I love to read, this is also true and I have loved to read my entire life, but what I mean to say is that I love books as objects. I might wax lyrical about older books, of which I own only a few, but I will readily admit to loving all sorts of books, be they old new, hardback or paperback. There is a certain aesthetic I go by obviously, I often prefer hardback books and I generally like simple and elegant cover designs on soft-back books, but I think it is fair to say that, in general, I love books. Even little chapbooks published in tiny poetry presses, I love those too.
It goes deeper than this. I also love the layout of the text on the page. This is one of the things that fascinates me most, and one of the things that draws me to poetry (for in poetry the possibilities when it comes to layout are almost endless). I love the different fonts used in different books, I love the way books are typeset, the list goes on. As physical objects, from the covers and the binding to the printing on the page (considerations of content aside) I love books.
If I read a cheap paperback book, undistinguished in design or layout, and I don’t enjoy it I will usually give it away to somebody else rather than store it on my shelves. However, there are several books, volumes of poetry in particular, which remain on my shelves even though I don’t particularly enjoy their contents. They remain there on their merits as physical objects. I only have a few such volumes now, but I’m sure the number will grow as my collection of books does.
I often toy with the idea of starting a small secondhand bookshop when I reach retirement age and dying amongst dusty volumes of books that nobody else wants. I have also pondered the idea of setting up my own small press some time, an idea which is much more reasonable, I suppose. Even if neither of these happens, I hope that at the end of my days my shelves will be full not only of novels and poetry that I love, but also many books, beautiful in and of themselves.