Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Thrill of it all
I love old books. I love the feel of them, the smell of them, the way the pages turn. I love the feel of the leatherbound ones because their covers and spines are soft as butter and there is no doubt whatsoever that they are leather. I love the cloth covered books because you can imagine the cotton that made the cloth growing in some field long ago, in Egypt or the United States, picked, cleaned, spun into threads, woven into cloth, so many hands having a part in it's disposition that the very history of the cover itself is intriguing. I love the smell of old books because it takes you back into long time past in a way that a new printing of the same title can't do. I try to read a book a week at the very least, but usually it's two. I'll read a new novel or perception of history, one based on true crime, but alongside it I'll have an old book. I know everyone knows that my absolute favorite is Kipling's "Thy Servant a Dog", it's no secret. It is probably my very favorite of all. When I open the portals of an old book, the feel and smell of it pulls me into the era to which it relates. The first time I read Kidnapped I could feel young David Balfour's story unfolding...feel it as if Mr. Stevenson was sitting in the room and the tale poured out of his pen like silk from the bolt. When we lived in Beaconsfield (Bucks) I absolutely haunted the old Penn Book Store. The books were old but mostly in fine condition. We collected Wm Shakespeare, Mr. Stevenson, Charles Dickens (oh so many of Mr. Dickens) and Rudyard Kipling. It was like mining diamonds. Today I was going through some of the books on a shelf and pulled down The Queens Book of the Red Cross (1939) wherein she had written a personal note to the purchasers of the book and thanking them, for their contribution would be filling the coffers of the Red Cross. Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) was so brave during war time, refusing to leave for the safety of Canada, she stayed with her people, living in the very real terrors of war with her daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. This book means so much to me. It is filled with the works of the best of the time, proving once again how generous and caring are the English. Books. I love the new ones, too. But the old ones are the ones that transport me through time and space. I lovingly look forward to Christmas so that I can open A Christmas Carol for about the one hundredth time in my life. Tonight Marley will come knocking. I'll open the door gladly .