My sentiments exactly regarding old books. I recently went to the annual Founders Book Fair here in Nelson, a weeklong booklover’s must-do. Several hours perusing thousands of used books in a chilly barn (I was prepared this year – layers, fingerless gloves, no purse, just a pocketful of cash and a reusable bag – and a partner to carry said bag when it got too heavy) ranging in price from 50 cents to three dollars netted me another 40+ books to add to my collections for $43. I felt supremely satisfied and my only problem was how to organize my already-full shelves and what to read first. I accepted haphazard “organization” (I swear there is some method there!) and then cuddled up with a cup of tea and a new/old paperback. There is something a bit magical about old books, as they are a story themselves. Who owned this? What did it mean to them? Why did they part with it? Did they even read it, or was it merely occupying shelf space until they had a clear-out?
Two other things I love about old books: inscriptions and random bookmarks. Receipts have to be the most common bookmark, the best one I found was for a cartload of liquor from a store in England. Perhaps someone had a party and then when everyone left they took the last remaining bottle and a book and sighed in relief for solitude. Or perhaps that was merely their personal supply for the week as they stayed in and hid from the outside world, reading and drinking (although the two only go together to a certain degree, usually that degree when the contents of the wine glass meet the pages of the book because someone has nodded off… not that I’ve ever done that of course, that wine stain was surely there before!).
Whenever I give a book as a gift I always inscribe a note to the receiver. A book is a personal gift and there had to be some thought in selecting that particular book for that particular person. Inside an anthology of quotes titled “Shakespeare on Love” I found this handwritten inside the cover:
Merry Christmas 2006.
May God bless you.
Love Jayne xxx”
Was this a gift given to a friend who loves Shakespeare? Or was it from an admirer? And why was Violet able to part with it? Perhaps there was little meaning behind it and much misunderstanding about Violet’s taste for Shakespeare. Or for love quotes, for that matter. We will never know and can only speculate.
What about you? Do you share my love for used books or are you devoted to the new and untouched? And what treasures have you come across in books?
“There are no faster and firmer friendships than those formed
between people who love the same books.”
– Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense
“Buying a book is not about obtaining a possession…
but about securing a portal.”
– Laura Miller
I love interesting words. Their meaning, where they come from. When I came across a picture of a wooden book with the word xylotheque as a caption, I thought that I had better Google that one. Oh, what a treasure trove I found.
Xylotheque: from the Greek xylon (“wood”) and theke (“storing place”). Essentially, a book-shaped object made of wood, containing inside of it samples relating to the species of wood from which the book is made. Imagine an object that intercepts knowledge of botany and love of books, with a little crafting thrown in for good measure. A creative wooden book containing related treasures. I’m so excited. Too bad I’m a couple of centuries late to get in on the craze, but thanks to Google I can ooh and aah over these magical objects that existed primarily in turn of the 19th century Germany.
The book is made of the wood of the tree, and inside are samples of moss, lichens, flowers, seeds, dried leaves, branches and bark. The compartment in the center contains a written description of the tree including its biology and practical use.
A library of trees. I want to touch every one of them.
A library is a hospital for the mind.