Tuesday, April 29, 2008


This is the most beautiful sight in the world. It is my front door, after I have closed it, after seeing my children off to school, after a two-week term break.

I adore my children, but every person needs some space.

Oddly enough, the first thing I felt like doing (after running around the house naked singing "celebrate good times c'mon") was sending off these snippets of my library.

This is the sign which my Grandpa engraved and had in his library. When he sent me the library he also included the sign, which I have placed above the doorway. " THE ONLY REAL PROPERTY IS THE PROPERTY OF THE MIND.

When I was about eight years old I was living in Israel, as were my Grandparents, and I used to go over to their apartment for sleepovers every so often. They would set up a little fold-out bed in the library for me, and my pillow was at the same level as this book:

It was especially noticeable because it was bright orange, and it had some illustrations which featured bare-breasted women. My Grandma noticed this once and I vaguely remember her chastising Grandpa, in a playful way, discussing what was "appropriate". My Grandma took life very seriously, but Grandpa never moved Casanova. My Grandparents were well-matched and had a very strong marriage.

Many, perhaps most, of my Grandpa's books are part of "The Limited Editions Club" which has been in existence since October 1929. I like the way they described themselves in 1962: "Your favourite books, the classics of the world's literature, illustrated by the foremost artists and made into volumes of beauty by the foremost designers of fine books."

Casanova is "bound in a cream-toned buckram, printed in crimson with an allover design - a flower-and-leaf pattern - within vertical rococo borders; it resembles the brocades one might find on the walls of a Venetian palazzo." Sigh.

Sixteen water-colours and sixteen line drawings were commissioned and executed by Ben Sussan. I love them.

I was going to leave it at that for today, but Suse reminded me (inadvertently) that I have these gems in my library, and it seemed incredibly selfish not to share them:

Each volume of this four-volume edition is described as "being bound in strong linen on which has been printed in leaf-green ink an all-over pattern selected...for its beauty and appropriateness; and each of the four volumes bears an identifying label stamped in gold leaf." You see, each book is accompanied by a "Letter" which describes it with great beauty and love.

Andor Braun, the designer of these volumes, chose "a fine brave size of Janson type (12-point, to be exact, and well leaded). Janson is modeled on a late seventeenth-century Dutch typeface for which the original matrices still exist in Germany." DO YOU NOT ADORE THAT? I DO!!!

The volumes "contain 48 brilliant full-page water-color paintings by Lucille Corcos".

Below is a detail from one of them. I think it is simply divine.

Regarding the authenticity of the text, something Suse (I imagine) may be wondering, well... the "Letter" describes the credentials of Louis and Bryna Untermeyer at GREAT length as "the editorial preparation..was entrusted with the fullest confidence" to them. They, apparently, drew largely upon the translations made by Margaret Hunt, Lucy Crane, Edgar Taylor, and Marian Edwardes. Ok, everyone, I know, I know, have patience, Suse may be interested, and she is writing a paper on this, it's important.

I really should sign out right here, because I have a REAL LIFE which is terribly neglected at present. But I cannot. Because look what is glittering at me from a shelf:

When you open this book, a little square note falls out. It says:



Sensitive to the touch

The "Letter" then explains:

"Chris Austopchuk's ingenious plan for the cover required heavy aluminum foil to simulate a book so durable that it would be able to resist a heat of 451 degrees - the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns."

I read this book many years ago, probably for school, I can't remember. In any case, I read it again around the same time I started blogging. Ray Bradbury's descriptions of thin screens, ear-pieces and virtual "families" are so pertinent to my life at the moment. I am sometimes tempted to run away from all civilization, but would they have internet access?


blackbird said...

That library is a stunning gift.

Anna said...

You have a library?? I'm so happy for you, books are a wonderful thing, but books with a history - that's so precious.
Know exactly what you mean with the photo of the closed door...
I'll be back with comment on comments, now that I've got it.

bluemountainsmary said...

What blackbird said!

eurolush said...

The gift that keeps on giving.

Love seeing the books and hearing the stories.

Suse said...

Thank you so much :)

That illustration is wonderful. As an aside, I always thought the plural of dwarf was dwarves, but recently I keep noticing it's 'dwarfs' in the fairy tales. I think Tolkien uses 'dwarves' in LOTR and The Hobbit doesn't he?

As another aside, I thought I read recently that most versions, incl the Grimms version, are just titled 'Snow White' and that it was Disney who added 'and the Seven Dwarfs' to differentiate his version so he could copyright it and 'own' it. If one is arrogant enough to believe that one owns something that is part of our cultural heritage and is in the public domain.

(Pardon me, off the soapbox now).

Anna said...

Ok, here is what it feels like:

Like exchanging smiles in a crowd because you and a stranger simultaneuosly spotted something out of the ordinary and needed to share it. No more, but the feeling of connection lingers through the day.

Badger said...

Just when I thought my library envy had subsided, here I am pawing at my computer screen with longing AGAIN.

kmkat said...

The Devils of Loudon is on my bookshelves, too. And your Snow White caused a feeling of deja vu, as though I had seen that exact edition when I was a child. But that is not likely, as you are in Australia and I am in the American Midwest. But books are like that... magical.

M said...

oh oh oh your copy of F451 is amazing. I sit here open mouthed.