Tuesday, January 4, 2011


On our way home from the bookstore Sunday, my son and I both noticed how our hands smelled like dusty old books. During the time we were there, we examined hundreds of volumes, all the while regretting our limited funds. But that torment, too, is part of the fun of book-buying — the painful knowledge that we must choose while leaving so many others behind.

That said, we did bring home some beauties — twenty-seven in all, ten of which will be mine, until such time arrives that my life or mind is gone, if the latter hasn’t happened already.

[click to enlarge]

I won’t bore you just now with a rundown of the titles. The two oldest books, the ones at the top of the stack, were published in 1869; the most recent, the one at the bottom, was published in 1919. Seven in all are from the nineteenth century. My son, meanwhile, retrieved two volumes of a three-volume set published in 1820, and another published in 1840. All three are sturdy and completely intact, having arrived like messengers from another world.

In the Forum: He comes with words sublimely dull, / In garb superbly silly, / To tell us of the Beautiful, / The sunflower and the lily.


Two Tigers said...

William, your stack of books looks very much like some of my best 19th century rescues from the days I used to visit the Strand bookstore in NYC! I think the publishers/series are the same, even if the actual titles aren't - the colors and type are unmistakable! Limited funds, space and upper body strength always kept my purchases down to one large bag that occasionally scraped the sidewalk as I made my way to the subway and back uptown. As I sat on the northbound train with the bag at my feet, guarded between my knees, that wonderful perfume of dusty old books would waft up to me, whispering of joys to come...thanks for reviving this memory!

Wine and Words said...

You had me at "smelled like dusty old books". May I have some wine with that?

William Michaelian said...

And thanks, Gabriella, for sharing yours. No doubt about it, we see these titles and series again and again in our book-browsing. Even before taking them from the shelf we know what they will weigh and roughly what year they were published. And again and again we rejoice.

For that matter, Annie, I have some books that smell like a cellar. So yes, by all means.

Paul L. Martin said...

Is there anything more precious than buying books? It is like a drug, the most magical drug in the world. Instantly, my day is better when I buy a book. Perish the thought that some electronic gadget will replace the codex! I am waiting now for a shipment from Amazon, since many of the tomes I need are no longer available on the shelves of my dwindling number of chain bookstores. As for the shipment, I cannot wait. I am like a kid on Christmas Eve. And the old smell of binding glue and paper coming from the old books: there is no better, more fragrant, more valuable perfume in all the land. If I were you, William, I would print the picture of your recent acquisitions and carry it in my wallet as if they were my children.

William Michaelian said...

Paul, that does it. You’re going to have to come up here so we can go to Powell’s, not to mention a few of the smaller shops. In the meantime, about all I can do is underline every word you’ve just said, and smile.

Paul L. Martin said...

William, I just left the house on foot. Should be there by Easter. Warm up the car, we're going shopping!

William Michaelian said...

Insanity, next 10 exits. Then again, I think we’ve already arrived.