Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of Illusory Titles, or, Bookshop Obituaries No. 1

'Don't tell me of facts, I never believe facts; you know, Canning said nothing was so fallacious as facts, except figures.'
--Sydney Smith (1771-1845)

There are many facts I don't uphold, in day to day life, as Truth.

For example, when searching for a particular secondhand bookstore on one's day off (as one does), the fact of London streets being a deal greater and more convoluted than they look on paper fails to register.

The fact that a concrete street name, or address, beyond a hazy notion of 'the street with all the bookshops on it' may help when searching, or, at any rate, when asking directions of innocent bystanders.

And so; and so; we move on. Life wends its immutable course, and though the bookshop street was not, indeed found, one has traversed a great deal of city. And not seen a good many titles which frustrate, proving as they are impossible to purchase.

But it was not of this incident that I wished to remark.

Does one really need another £1 1920s copy of 'Adam Bede'? And while a 'Beatrix Potter's Illustrations' hardcover is greatly soothing to the soul, greatly pleasing to the heart, can it, in the end, suffice? This week's obituaries* include the following:

-Four different copies of 'The Wind in the Willows', none, however, perfect (by which means: cheap, and also with the illustrations.)
-The 1899 equivalent of 'let's learn Hebrew'
-Bleak House (in two volumes), 1930s edition
-The Complete Keats
-A delightful book of Beatrix Potter illustrations--both published and unpublished
-English plays from the turn of the 18th century--with illustrations--thus, popular home dramas that are mentioned in Austen and similar..

Ah, the sweet anguish of it! No spare change, or more, and such dainties before one's grasp but unattainable--

Still. 'I am a part of all that I have met', quoth the poet, and so it is. The excitement gleaned does not rub off so quickly, no: but a promise to keep searching. For all books go to secondhand shops at some time, and there are always more, cheaper, dustier, ones, to be discovered.

If you haven't seen our new Chesterton & Davies Book Prizes or Contests, please do!

*By which the author of this blog means books that were seen, desired, avidly picked up and looked through, but regretfully set down again, through necessity.

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