Monday, January 08, 2007

A Good Book

And I don’t necessarily mean the Bible. In a world that is groaning under the weight of paperbacks and computer generated books, whilst it may be, rather as was once said of wine: “I like a bad wine occasionally – one gets so tired of good,” the immense and tactile pleasure of handling a well produced volume cannot be overstated. Well, not by me, anyway.

Thus one of my few (repeat, few) indulgences is to splurge occasionally on some good books. My principle Nemesis here is The Folio Society, and over the years I have consistently failed to resist their blandishments that arrive in my mail box annually. They are cunning devils, even their catalogue (they refer to it as a “prospectus”) has an air of decadent luxury about it, and I defy anyone who has ever lusted after a voluptuous volume to deny themselves.

Mind you, they’re not exactly the sort of thing one can stuff in the back pocket to read on the flight and I’m sure that the security people would look askance at anyone trying to smuggle such a book on board. They are books for enjoying in your most comfortable chair in front of the fire with a glass of wine to hand. And, of course, the television either off or in another room - preferably in another house. Neither are they books for reading in bed unless you can do it sitting up, since even the slimmest of their volumes comes in at a pretty good weight.

But what wonderful books they are. And what wonderful value when compared with the price of a paperback. To console myself for the money I spend each year with them, buying the four mandatory volumes, I totted up how much I spent on other, less worthy, products of the publishing industry. My conclusion was that it wasn’t much of an extravagance after all – a conclusion that was not met with complete unanimity in my household, I must admit.

The demands of the paperback have reduced to art of typography and design to its lowest common denominator. The principle requirement is to squash as many words onto a page as possible in order to reduce the print cost. Chapters usually run on, with little separation, and the old idea that all chapters should start on an odd numbered page has to be dispensed with on grounds of economy. It becomes the equivalent of a microwaveable food as opposed to eating in a good restaurant. Very adequate on occasion, but not totally fulfilling.

Since I live in a region where the number of genuine bookstores is pretty much a minus quantity and it’s only on my ventures into London that I am able to browse the bookshops of Charing Cross Road, I have to resort to mail order. Apart from The Folio Society, there is another source of fine books from a company calling themselves Bibliophile. These are a selection of all sorts, many of them publisher’s remainders, and whilst the larger part are paperbacks, they also have some fine bargains in quality books. A reprint of the Joan Blaeu Atlas Major of 1665 came at a laughable price compared to its original reprint price and there is a wide range of subjects to choose from.

The temptations are endless. My daughter says that when their monthly catalogue arrives, she has to dispose of it unopened on occasion when the domestic budget won’t run to any extravagance.

Unfortunately, I’m not that strong willed – I just have to conceal the packages when they arrive from my comptroller of the exchequer. I suggest you could do the same.


Post a Comment

<< Home