Mystery dedications Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

One of the more amusing points about having a massive library is stumbling across truly odd things, such as this:

Here is the dedication:

“To Alice: When the golden sun is setting and your life is free from care, When over a thousand things you are thinking, Will you some times think of me. There are few friends in this wide world that love is fond and true, But friend when you count them over place me among the few.”

A lovely dedication, yes? (aside from a ‘that’ which grammatically ought to be a ‘whose’)  Presumably on a book of poetry or maybe on a novel?  Er, no.

Rather it is found on the fly of: ‘The Legislative Manual for the State of New York. 1859’  A drier tome cannot be found, it is essentially an address book listing such gripping items as all the current postmasters for the state, population tables for towns, updates on law cases, and so forth.

Who was Alice? Furthermore, who wrote the dedication, and why? Were they copying it from something else in haste because they liked it? The cover of the book is stamped: H.R. Selden from A. Perry.  If A. Perry is Alice, why is the dedication on a book she gave?  Who is H.R. Selden?

The emotion is known, the reasons will be forever unknown.

Book Collecting Sunday, Jan 26 2014 

1856, from a letter by Julie to Morris:

“Dear Morris,

If you can find a copy of ‘My Peninsular Medal’ illustrated and illuminated, bound in double gilt extra, had you not better add it to our collection. It is a rare and choice work you know, and no really fine library is complete without it. Joking aside, we must either pause in our book buying or enlarge our borders for decidedly the place is getting too straight for us. The Edition of Dickens, however, we must have. If indeed it shall be all that it promises, fair sized volumes, good large print, and complete in all the stories. I insist on large print because I mean the delightful tales of this real man shall be my companions when I wear double spectacles from extreme old age, when I walk with a staff and then heavily. Where we will bestow the precious books is a matter to be decided after we really get them. We will resolve ourselves into a committee of two and fix their destination.”

There are several complete sets of Dickens hanging about, so they did get an edition.  Whether it was The Edition? Who knows. 

Awkward Questions Sunday, Jan 19 2014 

One of the invariable questions asked by first-time visitors to Esperanza is, ‘have you read all these books?’  Now, the answer is patently obvious: there are between twelve and fourteen thousand volumes.  No.  I read a lot, but not necessarily the books in the house. Some books I have read to the point of memorization, others…  There is, however, a slightly more embarrassing point that can arise.  Some of the books have Never been read, not in their decades, their century plus of life.  The give away is that books from the 1800’s and early 1900’s often have uncut, or incompletely cut pages: the quarto fold was never properly cut after printing, leaving the tops or sides of two pages  together.  If the book has been read completely, that obviously has been dealt with; it is a pain, however, requiring a steady hand and a sharp blade.  So if the book has never been read, but only flipped through….well!

But why?  The uncut books are almost entirely those associated with William Webster Ellsworth’s publishing and work as a literary critic/reviewer.  (Though I did just hit one that was clearly a gift to Carlotta Norton Smith in the 1860’s, not a successful gift it would seem).  WWE seems to have gotten a number of books, either for review or for other business, mostly in poetry/drama/memoirs that he never got all the way through.  I have to wonder if he reviewed any of them without reading all the way….

Still, awkward!

E-books and books Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

a minor thought thereon…

I’ve mentioned before that Esperanza has a large library, between 12-16,000 volumes.  Many of those books have inscriptions in them, as it might be: ‘To Carlotta, Christmas 1889’ or ‘with love, WWE’, or simply a name or date.  When I look through my own books there is a combination of visual and tactile memory at play. I remember that this or that book was given to me by a certain person at a certain time.  The connection, the memory of the relationship, continues to be recollected.  It is not simply a book, it is that Particular copy of that book.

Now, I don’t have any e-books so I am not truly qualified to say.  But it does seem to me that, because the e-books lack a physical presence, the memory of a relationship is less likely to last.  We can’t relate to a file on a computer in the same way that we can an actual object.  It is, in my view, part of the tangle between the virtual and the real.  The virtual reality can slide away without leaving a palimpset, no traces which will modify either the present or the future.  It is substantially harder to do that in the real world.

Or am I wrong?

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