recordbodycount: photo of Shakespeare and Company, Paris (books // shelves)
the great civilising force of the 20th century ([personal profile] recordbodycount) wrote2009-08-23 02:17 am

Meme, books as objects


What's the oldest book you own?
I'm actually not sure. We own a couple of miniature books, one inch to three inches tall, which I'm pretty sure belonged to my great-grandparents' generation, although I don't remember. One contains parts of the Book of Common Prayer, the other one is the Gospel of Matthew. They're extremely fragile and crumbly, and they live in a corner of the china cabinet.

Competing with that, I have a volume of the first three books of the Aeneid in an interlinear translation, which I think was my grandfather's (the signature on the flyleaf is illegible). Cornish's Interlinear Keys to the Classics. It's all paper, so thin that when I set it down on my knee it flops. The translator is one John Gibson, M.A., who lists his credentials on the title page as follows:
First Class, Classics, Cambridge; Senior Exhibitioner of Uppingham School; Open Exhibitioner, Foundation Scholar and Prizeman of Trinity College; For Five Years Master at Westminster School; Author of Law, Army, Matriculation, and Preliminary Medical 'Guides,' 'History Made Easy,' 'Geography Made Easy,' Etc.

There's no date on it anywhere, just a quote from Ovid's Tristia: Little book, You will go Without me to the City, Nor do I envy you. Woe is me! that your master may not go too.

What's the newest book you own?
My most recent purchase was a new copy of The Secret Garden, since my old one got lost somewhere. This one doesn't have pictures, it's a bummer.

Name a book that you like to have easily accessible?
I probably refer most often to my Cassell's Latin Dictionary, an old copy that belonged to my dad with a sturdy red binding. I have an equally elderly Concise Oxford Dictionary as well as my giant two-volume OED elephant, but really I've mostly gone over to online dictionaries, unless I need to check an etymology.

Name a book that you like to have easily noticeable (for reasons of pretension or 'cause it's pretty)?
This one gets a lot of comments.

What's the nicest book or set of books that you own?
Man, not a lot. I'm pretty rough on my books and I don't usually buy things just for bindings or pictures. Roloff Beny's To Everything There Is a Season, which is a book of national-pride photography; a big book of Michelangelo prints and photographs of sculptures; the Roman Missal is a big intimidating leather-bound gold-stamped beribboned monstrosity that looks like something the Watchers' Council would refer to often.

What's the most battered, most loved book that you own?
Probably my Narnia books.

Have you encountered a book that felt especially nice to hold?
All the time, yes. If I may quote C's writing:
"They're beautiful, though, when they're older. I like the books that feel like they were made for the palm of your hand, like they were supposed to be transported to a park or a bench or a boat somewhere. Just that proper thickness--" She took up another book, its cloth binding pale green and worn at the corners, showing the board beneath. "Like this one. Smack, right in the palm of your hand, just the proper size. Solid, you know?"

My examples of this were (sadly) not books I owned but library books: Macbeth, the Iliad, Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd.

Do you arrange books by author, title, genre, vibe, colour or not at all?
I have four main bookcases at home, in which the books are shelved two deep. Things I don't use much are in the back, obviously. Religious stuff has its own bookcase--Bibles, concordances, commentaries, missals, prayer books, hymnals, theology, authors like Merton and Donne. Philosophy and history also goes here. The rest is shelved pretty haphazardly, according to what will fit where.

Do library / borrowed books feel as nice as books you own?
Sure, although there's always that sense of melancholy because you know you can't keep them. But I make no bones about reading them at the table or in the bath or whatever.

What format of book do you most like holding? (ie, paperback, hardback, trade paperback, graphic novel...)
Probably the paperback, which isn't as heavy on the hardback and is nicer to fall asleep on top of when I read in bed.

Do you have any hidden books?
Nope. Even my old pagan books are still on the shelves (or in boxes, I don't have enough shelf space). Some, such as Best Lesbian Erotica 1999 or whatever, I am not very likely to grant shelfspace to.

What books would you keep in your (real or hypothetical) spare room for guests to read?
Hmm. Probaby some mysteries (Tony Hillerman, P.D. James), P.G. Wodehouse, Nick Hornby, maybe Neil Gaiman.