I have been Spring cleaning, during the last few days. The Winter Olympics are on TV; since I can rarely sit still for longer than a half hour, I have been going through the books in our library. This still allows me to hear if Canada has a competitor in an event, at which point I will drop everything in order to watch.
I found an old set of leather bound, small books named The Best of the World's Classics. They were printed in 1909, with Henry Cabot Lodge as Editor-In-Chief and Francis W. Halsey as Associate Editor. There are ten volumes in all, although I only have five of them.
I have one Greece volume, two of Continental Europe and two of America. The leather is old and soft; cracked in places and the books open easily to favoured pages...
And then I found two old books on gardening...one by W.P. Wright which was published in 1911 in Great Britain at the Temple Press. On the inside of the leather cover I find a quotation..."Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide in thy most need to go by thy side". I love that.
And the other tome on gardening is The Blue Book of Gardening---Catalogue 1939. It was printed by Carters Tested Seeds Ltd. It is hardcover, with the 1939 calendar on the inside of the front cover, places for Diary notes, sepia coloured photos of Raynes Park in London, the home of Carters Tested Seeds, gracing the first few pages. A catalogue for seeds in hard cover, with beautiful plates of flowers and gardens scattered throughout! These days I am grateful to receive a small pamphlet from a seed company in the mail.
And then, I have a very old, very beloved copy of The Works of William Shakespeare, printed by Morrison and Gibb of Edinburgh, Scotland and underneath the title, it states... Carefully Edited From The Best Texts. There is no date on this book, which I inherited along with a magnifying glass because of the very small print, but it is carefully taped here and there to keep the cover together. The cover is burgundy leather over a felt cloth which blanket the books gilt-lined pages, as thin and fine as tissue paper.
I find one of my favourite books of all time...The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. Printed in 1944, it has a foreword by the author, as if it had been written today. She states..."If these years of war have been any use to mankind, surely their most lasting good has been to prove to all the world the splendid and heroic qualities of the plain Chinese people." With a cloth bound green cover, it was published by Random House with permission from the John Day Company.
As I look through these books, the most uncommon urge to sneeze...and sneeze...and sneeze, as if there were no tomorrow, comes over me. Old books and I have a habit of not getting along, even if they are my old books. A second-hand store is truly vexing...my body reacts as if it were at war, with great, heaving asthmatic attacks. It is vexing in that I love old books and antiques...
I have aired them out many times since they came into my life...it is time for another. I have not ever, even with a thorough cleansing, been able to read the above-mentioned list...they are too old and the smell of must is prevalent no matter what.
Writers were wordy in those days; even a discussion of the many Petunias take up quite a few sentences of lovely, descriptive words. I would love to read them, even just for those words...how different this is from today's tweeting, where everyone shares views quickly, easily, with no formal appellations.
One may well wonder why I bother to keep them. There is little monetary value; it is for sentimental reasons that they still grace the old, long table upon which they reside. I imagine the love with which my old aunt, who once owned them, turned those pages, taking up the magnifying glass with aged, trembling hands in order to read the fine, fine print.
She must have found comfort in reading those beautiful, familiar words and sentences. I remember she was able to quote long stanzas from any number of books...stanzas to fit any occasion.
I don't imagine quotes are used much when tweeting...
And so I keep these old books, even if they give me allergic attacks. They remind me of a time when books were kept for a lifetime, and read over and over.
A time when there were no televisions or hand-held devices to tell me Canada has just won a medal....