The Irony of Bibliomania
I was reading a passage yesterday from page 382 of Holbrook Jackson's Anatomy of Bibliomania, pressing down on the book to hold the page, and I've now squeezed back the covers to type the following passage:
Andrew Lang holds that the binding should unite solidity and elegance, and he reminds us, as well he may, that the conditions of a well-bound book are not confined to a strong or appropriate cover but extend to the opening and closing of the volume as well: the book should open easily, and remain open at any page you please. It should never be necessary, in reading, to squeeze back the covers. No book, however expensively bound, is well bound, unless it open with ease . . .My copy of Jackson is a poorly bound paperback . . . but useful, for it directed me to Andrew Lang's solidly factual but stylisitically elegant book, wherein I read these original words:
The conditions of a well bound book may be tersely enumerated. The binding should unite solidity and elegance. The book should open easily, and remain open at any page you please. It should never be necessary, in reading, to squeeze back the covers; and no book, however expensively bound, has been properly treated, if it does not open with ease. (Andrew Lang, The Library, pages 68-69)It looks to me as though Jackson was just a bit too sparing in his italics of acknowledgement, but the greater irony lies in the mechanics of the Bibliomania book's binding. Or should I say 'dynamics'? -- for the book closes itself, as though anxious to not be read! Hardly inviting . . . but I stick with it.
As for Andrew Lang, his entire book may be read online in pdf form here, though it stretches to 572 pages of inconvenience for a book that is actually just 192 pages at Google Books, where most of the text can be read anyway. Perhaps one can switch from one to the other for convenience . . . or lay out the money for a Kindle and enter the future of reading.
At any rate, happy reading to all in this new year.