The Booklover and his Books
Mirza Firuz Shah
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Subject Year (Time):
Harry Lyman Koopman
Publisher & Place:
The Boston Book Company, Boston
Royal Mughal Ref:
The following chapters were written during a series of years as one aspect after another of the Book engaged the writer's attention. As they are now brought together, the result is not a systematic treatise, but rather a succession of views of one many-sided subject. In consequence there is considerable overlapping. The writer hopes, however, that this will be looked upon not as vain repetition but as a legitimate reinforcement of his underlying theme, the unity in diversity of the Book and the federation of all who have to do with it. He therefore offers the present volume not so much for continuous reading as for reading by chapters. He trusts that for those who may consult it in connection with systematic study a sufficient clue to whatever it may contain on any given topic will be found in the index.
Most of these chapters appeared as papers in "The Printing Art"; two were published in "The Graphic Arts," and some in other magazines. The writer expresses his thanks to the proprietors of these periodicals for the permission to republish the articles in their present collective form. All the papers have been revised to some extent. They were originally written in rare moments of leisure scattered through the busy hours of a librarian. Their writing was a source of pleasure, and their first publication brought him many delightful associations. As they are presented in their new attire to another group of readers, their author can wish for them no better fortune than to meet—possibly to make—for book lovers.
The booklover is distinguished from the reader as such by loving his books, and from the collector as such by reading them. He prizes not only the soul of the book, but also its body, whichhe would make a house beautiful, meet for the indwelling of the spirit given by its author. Love is not too strong a word to apply to his regard, which demands, in the language of Dorothy
Wordsworth, ' 'a beautiful book, a book to caress —peculiar, distinctive, individual: a book that hath first caught your eye and then pleased your fancy." The truth is that the book on its physical side is a highly organized art object. Not in vain has it transmitted the thought and passion of the ages; it has taken toll of them, and in the hands of its worthiest makers these elements have worked themselves out into its material body. Enshrining the artist's thought, it has, therefore, the qualities of a true art product, and stands second only to those which express it, such as painting and sculpture; but no other art product of its own order, not the violin nor the jewel casket, can compare with the book in aesthetic quality.
It cannot be too often repeated that properly made books are not extremely costly. A modern book offered at a fancy price means either a very small edition, an extravagant binding, or what is more likely, a gullible public. But most books that appeal to the booklover are not excessive in price. Never before was so much money spent in making books attractive —for the publisher always has half an eye on the book love —and while much of this money is wasted, not all is laid out in vain. Our age is producing its quota of good books, and these a booklover makes it his business to discover.
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