Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Some dilate upon the number and kind of books suitable for a journey . . . "

{Photo by rocketlass.}
As travelling companions books have no corrival. If they lacked other purpose or defence, this alone would justify them before men. How many hours they have scattered pleasantly on lone and long journeys; what limitless tedium they have relieved or circumvented, how they have filled the waking hours, or composed the weary brain for sleep, every reader can support.
Those lines from Holbrook Jackson's seventeenth-century-style The Anatomy of Bibliomania (1948) seem right for this post, the last that I've lined up in advance to run while I'm off in Japan. For while the 600-plus posts on this blog surely put my love of books beyond question, I have to part with Jackson here: were the choice necessary, I would always select congenial living companions over books on a journey.

The following, too, seems worth quoting, if only to remind me that, however much my shoulders may ache from the weight of too many books at this point in my trip, my bibliomania could always be worse:
Some have gone so far as to construct travelling libraries for themselves, like Sir Julius Caesar, Master of the Rolls in the reign of King James I. His library went wherever he did. It was arranged in a box, shaped like a folio volume, covered with olive-green morocco, finely tooled in an elaborate pattern. On the inside lid was a catalogue of the forty-four books which comprised the library.
Which leads me to this closing line, the italicized part of which Jackson draws from Edmund Gosse's Library of Edmund Gosse:
I might here insert many more opinions, but they all tend to one conclusion: books are not entirely valued or intimately loved unless they are ranged about us as we sit at home.
And that is where, to sit quietly with my martinis and my cats, I am headed.


  1. Maggie Bandur11:36 AM

    I had been wondering if you had been posting from Japan or had left a backlog. If Dracula were written today, the count would probably have insisted on having Jonathan Hawker pre-write a bunch of blogs instead of filling out "Having a great time in Transylvania" postcards in advance -- and I would have hated that.

  2. No: believe it or not, I didn't touch a computer for eleven days. I did, however, lock Jonathan Harker up and try to turn his fiancee.