Everybody has an opinion about the print book v. e-book. I like both and have both. I’ll never give up all my print books because what would I do with all those empty shelves? There’s a tactile pleasure in handling books that nothing else provides. There’s also a scent to books: paper and ink, even soy ink, and gum that is hard to beat.
Antique books, the really old ones, breathe on their own.
Over the years I’ve bought and sold thousands of volumes. At one time I collected old, rare, and antique books. Almost all of them have gone on to live with other bookophiles. One beautifully leather-bound pocket volume with exquisite color plates still holds a special place on a shelf. It’s in old German (which I can’t read) but it doesn’t matter, I still appreciate the artistry of the maker.
I rather hope print books explore the possibility of returning to the practices of yore. Produce a book that will still be solid and durable in the hand two centuries from now and I’d spend a chunk to buy one and gift it to someone special.
The modern world provides many conveniences but I long for some of the elegance and artistry of the past. My father’s tool boxes contain handtools made decades ago out of lovely rosewood and inlaid with silver filagree. They function just as well as modern implements but contain a vestige of elegence that fills you up inside, like a memory from another era, when you use one.
Old things fascinate me. I know that about myself.
Accumulating material objects matters less to me than the stories they contain. Museums, antique stores, curio shops, historic sites offer up a plenitude of artifacts around which personal stories and histories swirl like wraiths. Written words appeal to me because they’re tangible bits of time that can be shared and enjoyed and passed along. Books are the shared DNA of readers and writers around the world. What an excellent family.
One of my favorite childhood books was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I still have a battered, creased and marked up copy that evokes memories of paste glue, thick crayons and blue-lined pulp paper. Some people want to be interred with love letters, photographs, special keepsakes. Me? I want my favorite books. If there’s an afterlife I want to make sure my best friends are there too.
What was your favorite childhood volume? Which tome could you simply not exist without? Have you shared the stories that most matter to you?