Archives For Publish

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!

Treasuring Books

October 15, 2012 — 10 Comments

Most of us love and respect books, don’t we? We take care of our literary treasures, and the more deeply we are attached to a particular volume, the better we treat it.

Many of us are reluctant to loan out the books which line our shelves like so many gems, resting in a jeweler’s pristine cases. When we do agree to share them, we’re afraid they may never find their way home. And, when they eventually return to our welcoming grasp, they sometimes bear the scars of their sojourn in the paws of others who do not esteem them as they ought to. Page corners may be scored. Coffee or tea stains may have “embellished” the text. Bindings may have been carelessly mistreated. And, unbelievably, the borrowers are likely to be unaware of how they have abused the tome’s dignity and disfigured its beauty.

Speaking honestly, my own bookshelves are in constant disarray, and too many of my books still remain unpacked after our move into our retirement home. But I am absolutely serious about how painful I find it to witness the mistreatment of books by those ignorant of their value.

C.S. Lewis loved books. He recognized their power. He embraced their wonder. And—most wonderfully for us—he penned a number of classics that will continue to inspire readers for generations.

Yet, as much as Lewis treasured books, he took his own creations for granted. This changed in December of 1954, when he received a precious package from his publisher. Among his Christmas gifts that year were specially bound copies of Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity. Receipt of the thoughtful present opened his eyes to an interesting notion. On the twenty-second day of the month, he wrote:

I never had a handsomer present. . . . Perhaps these two charming volumes will teach me at last to have for the bodies of my own books the same reverence I have for the bodies of all other books. For it is a curious fact that I never can regard them as being really books; the boards and print, in however mint a condition, remain a mere pretense behind which one sees the scratchy, inky old manuscript.

I daresay that those writers among us can relate to Lewis’ mindset. Even with the pride that accompanies having books or articles in print, our work somehow seems “different” than the other published materials we invariably respect. This is due in large part, I believe, to their familiarity. Writers, better than most, understand what familiarity breeds. We know these works that flowed from our own consciousness and sweat . . . we know them intimately. And we are keenly aware that if given another opportunity, there are parts of them we would even now edit to be clearer, sharper, and more eloquent.

I never cease to be surprised by the humility of new writers who almost whisper their accomplishments to others. It’s as though they are embarrassed . . . that they assume their friends would consider them braggarts if they spoke with the pride they genuinely feel about their work. Some of us hold onto our rejection letters. (I do.) How much better though, to print out high quality copies of articles or devotions we’ve written and place them in a prominent binder or display located near our keyboard.

Who knows, I may actually follow my own advice and do something like that. Sadly, I don’t have a grateful publisher eager to prepare special editions for me. Nevertheless, I’m glad Lewis did. I learned from his insight that whenever we release our literary progeny to the world, they merit the same degree of respect and affection that we book-lovers bestow so generously on the works of others.

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Postscript: The image above is an actual manuscript page from James Joyce’s Ulysses. (It makes me feel much more confident about my own initial scribblings.)