Monday 15 November 2010

book love

The first book I ever loved was The Oxford Book of Latin Verse. I'm not sure how old I was. Perhaps I loved it before I could even read. Certainly I couldn't read Latin. I loved it because it was beautiful. It was small enough to hold easily (even when I had smaller hands), with plain dark blue hard covers, with the title in gold on the spine. Did it have something on the front? Perhaps the OUP colophon? I think it might have. It was thick, perhaps two inches deep, and inside, there were hundreds of thin, thin pages made of that sort of paper I associate with bibles, paper which makes a satisfying crackle as you turn the pages. The text was very small, densely packed lines of verse. I would arrange ranks of dolls and teddies, then face them, and 'read' them fairy tales from this book, sometimes with the pages turned towards them as primary school teachers do, even though there were no pictures for my pupils to look at.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to read an electronic book. I've read the reviews; I've had a look at them in shops. I understand that you can hold thousands of books at once in the palm of your hand, annotate them, send passages to friends, find words and phrases at the click of a button. But they're not books, are they? I love the smell of a book, new clean pages or fusty old paper. And the weight of it in your hand: the perfect hand-sized paperback; the tome so heavy you have to lean it on the pillow and read lying on your front; but not for me those extra-big airport paperbacks, they don't stay open like a hardback and they're too heavy for a paperback. I own some books that I know I'm never going to read. I keep them because they're beautiful.


  1. unfortunately someone has removed the colour plates (grr) but the line drawings are beautiful anyway.

  2. I remember the pocket Oberservers books of Planes or Cars and loving the technical data and the tiny wee photos. They really did fit in a (large) pocket too. They sound like very 'boy' books don't they?

  3. Ooh yes, Observer's Books. I have one on the shelves, No. 5 Wild Animals. It's 3 3/4 in by 5 3/4, just big pocket-sized, nice strong keep-it-forever binding. Published by Frederick Warne, who published Beatrix Potter, so they knew a thing or two about the importance of size. I think the series must have originally been intended just to be wildlife guides, and not aimed at kids. Certianly this one is written by an expert (hurray!), very wordy, and most of the early ones on the list are natural history titles. Later on the list is very wide ranging: No 40 Commercial Vehicles, No 57 Sewing...


What do you think?