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Our Personal Libraries

December 20, 2012 — 13 Comments

printing lettersWhat a blessing it is to live in an age when even the most modest home can treasure its personal library. Public libraries are a community boon, but because of the printing press, books are no longer restricted to the homes of the wealthy.

Books—or, more properly the reading of books—has a direct correlation to human intelligence, knowledge and (occasionally) even to wisdom itself.

In 1905, at the age of seven, C.S. Lewis moved with his family into a large home in the countryside. It was so spacious, in fact that in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis says, “to a child it seemed less like a house than a city.”

Lewis proceeds to describe the “mansion,” and its most notable feature . . . the profusion of books.

The New House is almost a major character in my story. I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.

I am a product . . . of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.

I’m privileged to own a large library. It’s not a matter of pride. It’s a matter of joy. Like Lewis, and most readers of Mere Inkling, I love books. And, like most bibliophiles, I am fascinated by numerous things related to books.

While attending college I worked for a small publisher. I was able to do a bit of writing, but most of the job involved using an enormous Linotype Phototypesetting machine and pasting up the projects. It was an interesting process, which is now long obsolete.

letterpress

Nevertheless, due to my love for books, reinforced by my own experience as a “printer’s devil,”* I have an affection for items related to publishing. I recently purchased several items from a family business called Type-tiques.

They offer a wide range of reasonably priced letterpress printer’s blocks which look wonderful on bookshelves and literary desktops.**

I also recently accepted an offer for ten free letterpress bookmarks from Peach Farm Studio. You can read about their promotion here. (Since my comment there is still awaiting “moderation,” I’m unsure of the status of the project, but I’ll keep you posted.)

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* Just a note that, should you be unfamiliar with the term “printer’s devil,” it’s simply trade parlance for the shop’s apprentice or flunkey.

** When my wife proofread this, she asked if I literally meant “literary desktops.” Then she motioned towards my own book-laden desk and queried, “and where will you put them?” Fortunately, I have lots of shelves!