{25/02/2013}   Very old books

My three £5 leather booksFor the bargain price of £5, I bought three very old books the other day.  They are all leather bound, hand printed and they all have lovely artwork inside them.  Two of them even still have their raggy old ribbon bookmarks and one appears to be a first edition.  I bought them because they were all books that interested me to read but now I’ve had time to study them I am appreciating them even more.

One of the books, “A Woman  Killed with Kindness”, a play by Thomas Heywood, was printed in 1897.  The pages are rough because the print is indented.  There is something truly magical about that book.  Also, the leather is really soft and the publisher, Dent, has a beautiful gold logo stamped into the leather on the front.  The paper, like the type, is not smooth.  It’s really good quality thick paper.  This book is 116 years old and is still in amazingly good condition.  I love it.

I also now have a 1924 copy of King Lear.  That is also lovely, but the leather isn’t quite as soft and the typeset isn’t as lovely, but it is still a beautiful book.  When I was at school reading “boring” Shakespeare, I’m sure that reading from old books like this would have made it far more interesting.  Also, this book has someone’s beautiful handwriting in the back and they have painstakingly written out maybe their favourite or maybe the most famous quotes from King Lear, complete with page references.  Finding things written or slips of paper maybe used as bookmarks can be more interesting than the books themselves and I love that this copy has such beautifully handwritten quotes written out.

The third book is again wonderfully soft leather, though the spine is a quite worn and the front cover is as good as unattached.  This book is a very dark green leather and has a beautiful gold indent of an owl on the front .  This book, “Lectures on the English Comic Writers” by William Hazlitt, was printed in 1900, a staggering 113 years ago.  I really want to read it as I’m convinced it’s going to be scathing about the various writers he’s passing judgement on.

Admittedly, these books came from a house that stank of cigarette smoke and the smell lingers on your hands after you’ve touched them.  I can’t think of anything nice to say about that as it really is a very stale smoke and not at all atmospheric or a joyous memento of their previous owner.  However, I shall read them and display them and love them for as long as I can.  I’m also convinced I might actually enjoy King Lear.  I would have bought Hamlet but that really was in bad condition with pages and the cover merely a pile of papers.  It is also a shame I wasn’t interested in any of the William Thackaray books, though once the call came through from the bloke who put them in the shop (there was a long story behind it!) that for three, £5, I didn’t want to start going through them all again to get the ones in good condition.  I should have done probably.  But for now I am happy with my three old, smelly, leather bound books that I have so far enjoyed touching more than reading!


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