I have to thank Peter Grant for allowing me free rein in his library for this. I think I mystified him when I was trying to explain what I’m trying to achieve with the Bibliophilia posts. However, in the process of trying to sum it up, I realized I’ve been saying the wrong thing about it.
It’s not just ‘the book as a work of art,’ it is much more about a ‘book that has a soul.’ In other words: a book that has been loved, and cherished, sometimes by generations. A venerable piece in a collection that survives the periodic purges we all have to conduct on our libraries, if we are serious bibliophiles. I can look over at one of my shelves and know that Peter does this from time to time – when I visited a couple of years ago, he had boxes of books he’d sorted out to dispose of, and I gave more than a few a new loving home for at least a time. I’ve done this with my own library, too. You pass on the joys. Not all books are forever books.
Some books, though. Some books have soul. These are the books that if you loan one out, and it disappears, you replace it. If you think about it, you buy cheap copies to loan out, or straight-up give away to trusted readers you share interests with. As Peter and I looked through his library, I realized that, and I saw just what I wanted to photograph for this post.
The Don Camillo books are turning 70. They have not lost a step in all that time, because they are, in essence, stories about human nature. The setting may be changed and unrecognizable, but they remain true to life.
The little pastor reminds me strongly of Peter, and I suspect that Peter’s personality may owe a bit to the influence of these books, and the place where the author got inspiration. So when I see the books, I see the affection that a reader has for books that mean much to them, foundational tomes that might not seem to be that weighty. They are, though. Sometimes we find ourselves in unexpected places.
These are not books that would seem to be works of art. No lavish illustrations, no gold-embossed leather covers. Paper that is starting to turn brown and brittle with age. The words, though.
There are books in libraries all over that have soul. Like the Velveteen Rabbit (itself a lovely book) they have been loved into being ‘real books.’
That’s what my bibliophilia is about. The love of books, as repositories of words. But deeper than that. Classic books that speak to my heart.