There’s something about books that is very hard to beat, don’t you think? I’m talking about real, physical books. Especially old books! It’s not just the feel, although that’s definitely part of it. It’s the smell too. And the thrill of turning the page to reveal the next part of the story. And with old books the craftsmanship too. It’s just a much fuller, richer experience than flipping open the Kindle cover, tapping on the glass and swiping across the screen every minute or so in some mock page-turning motion, as if trying to fool ourselves that it is a little bit like the real thing.
One of the delights of this time of year is that Christmas/new Year usually involves a visit to my Dad, although illness delayed the trip by a couple of weeks this time. But as my older brother is celebrating his 50th birthday on Friday, this turned out to be quite helpful because it meant that he and his large family were able to make the trip too so that all 13 of us could meet up at my Dad’s (a fairly rare occurrence!).
Obviously it’s great seeing my family, but another delight is rummaging through my Dad’s library. I think there are about 10,000 books in total, although I don’t know how up-to-date his catalogue is, and I know from my step-mum’s comments that he is still acquiring, despite not now being able to read much or remember what he read 5 minutes ago, let alone the day before or the week before.
When my Mum and Dad moved house in 1989 he had a bit of a clear out. Then again when he moved after my Mum’s death 10 years ago. But he kept everything on London history and everything on Christian theology. In the main picture is a Geneva Bible. As you can see, this one was printed in 1603, so it’s 411 years old this year. I think the oldest book he owns dates from the 16th century, but I couldn’t find that on this visit. I’m pretty sure my Kindle won’t be usable after that length of time, which shows another advantage of the printed book!
The Bible shown in the main photo was also known as the Breeches Bible, due to the wording used in Genesis 3 verse 7. Here’s that page in my Dad’s copy, with the relevant verse highlighted: This went through over 150 editions between its first publication in 1560 and its final edition in about 1644, being the first publicly-available Bible printed in English that had extensive margin notes and study guides.
One of the problems of having that many books but a fairly small house is that you have to maximise the efficiency of the storage / shelving system. This means that finding something can be quite a challenge, because the books are generally shelved by size, not necessarily by topic or author!
Another fascinating thing about some of the old books that my Dad owns is that they often have notes scribbled in, perhaps identifying the original purchaser, as shown below, or giving opinions about the content.
I love this library, both from a social history point of view and for the content of the books themselves, most of which are still as relevant today as when they were printed or written, even if that was hundreds of years ago.
But to me it’s also part of who my Dad is, so that makes it very special indeed.
Making their mark
Village humour part 3
On a cold and frosty morning
Early summer daisies
A misty, murky morning
Village humour part 2