Old Books

I'm a bibliophile. There's no sense in denying it. Books are just about the only material objects that can excite me, and are my largest expense every year (I know because I save my receipts, and my partner does some terrifying calculations at tax time).
I especially love old books, with substantial bindings, flyleaves, marbled end-papers and all the rest. Exquisite objects with their musty smells and mysterious copper-plate inscriptions. For some years I worked in the rare book trade, and spent every day surrounded with wonderful old books.
And I love those old plain-jacketed orange and white Penguins, the ones they have just re-released. Back in the 80s one could buy them second-hand for a few cents each, and it was thanks to them that I am the well-read soul I am today. As a young teenager in a country town I quickly realised that all the classics seemed to come in this format, so I would buy any one that I happened to find, even if I didn't recognise the author or title. This way I made some wonderful literary discoveries - Ivy Compton-Burnett, Rose Macauley, Norman Douglas....just to name a few who would otherwise be entirely unknown to me if it hadn't been for Penguin's distinctive design.
Once or twice a year I will indulge and order on-line some rare and expensive old tome I feel I simply must have - often it is updating a tacky old modern paperback version I may have, or at last acquiring someting I've seen referred to constantly, but have never owned. The internet has, of course, been the most terrific discovery for the bibliophile. Before that we were at the whim of rare book dealers with their printed catalogues and their mercurial approach to pricing. Ah, such romantic days. Now it is a simple matter of economics - sometimes I can buy in the US for $1 what I can source here for $60 odd.
Here is one of the jewels of my collection - the two volume collection of Queen Victoria's letters edited by A. C. Benson. I'm mad about the Bensons, but will blog about that another day.


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