The Textures of Books

I love the smell of books, the touch of each page.  When I run across one of those that just calls out to me from the shelf, it’s all I can do to step away from the computer and grab it off the shelf. Today there were a few of those books, one in particular that always catches my fancy: In Darkest Africa by Henry M. Stanley.

Rounded edges, a spine separated and yellow from age, my fingers gently opened the cover to read ” with two steel engravings, and one hundred and fifty illustrations and maps”.  First Edition, and possibly the only one, c. 1890.  That is 123 years old.

page 97: Entry of April 30, 1887

“Each officer is personally responsible for the good beahviour of his company and the condition of arms and accoutrements.”

“For trivial offences–a slight corporal punishment, only can be inflicted, and this as seldom as possible. Officers will exercise discretion in this matter, and endeavour to avoid irritating the men, by being too exacting, or showing unnecessary fussiness.”

The life of a book is not contained in the printed words. There are hints left behind from the original owner of the book. Slips of vellum torn to mark a passage or image. numbers written on the margin of one page; 100, 50, 200. Ownership proudly shown in pencil Mrs. C. F. Wilcox of San Jose, CA.  I wonder if there is a relationship inside the story to the owners of this book. That you can’t find by skimming. Dare I reach for the other volume, to see the engravings or read the tales of this quest?

Next to this jewel is a rather tattered book. The back cover is missing, same yellow cast.

…. from Uncle Phil. Christmas 1926

” There was formerly an aged fisherman, so poor that he could barely obtain food for himself, his wife and his three children.  He went out early every morning to his employment; and he had imposed a rule upon himself never to cast his nets above four times a day.”

Arabian Nights, First Edition 1924

I think one should wear gloves when handling such volumes.


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