i'm sitting here on the train to london with my pile of old books. the lady sitting next to me is reading on a kindle. i barely know what one is and i'm immediately repelled by this grey plastic box with a grey plastic screen housing darker grey words. anyone who knows me will be aware that i'm a big fan of grey- dove grey, slate grey, warm greys, cool greys, the pale greys of dusk, the rich charcoal greys of night and the watery light greys of the break of day. books are amazing. the colours, the feel, the weight, the texture, the smell, the craftmanship, the intrigue, the unexpected....... all this is lost with a plastic box.
a book has a history- the many thumb prints of many hands over many years. creases and tatters, scribblings and smears- a barely visible watermark of tears. open an old book and drink in the scent- often musty or smoky, mouldy and damp. open a new book and breathe in the smell- the smell of the press, the smell of the ink, of the paper, of the factory. feel the texture of the boards- the battered covers, the fluffy worn corners, the brittle skin of the elderly dust jacket. or feel the smooth, crisp, perfect cover and that first crease in the spine made by your hand as you explore from jacket through to skeleton, deeper into the body and finally through to the heart.
paper is beautiful- delicate and translucent like vellum, light and fragile like a butterfly's wing or coarse and elephant-wrinkled like a gunnera leaf in late autumn. words are woven in the type faces of the time- a thread leading back to another decade, another era. the nostalgia of childhood, the nostalgia of a grandmother's childhood or something even older. colours and design place a book in time- quaint and dated, antique and revered, fun and quirky, contemporary and cutting edge. there are scribblings, dedications, names, dates and affection- the celebration of birthdays, christmases and etched reminders of events in lives long gone. books as prizes, books hard saved for and books as surprises.
and finally, the unexpected. the little treasures trapped between the pages- the long lost bookmarks, the letters of love, the notes, the lists, the scraps of card, the pressed flowers. fragments of a life. books to read in baths, books that have travelled the world, books that have lined the libraries of the soul. books piled high, balanced precariously, a temporary stair for an extra arm's reach. books for pressing, supporting, displaying, insulating, warming. books for burning, altering, lending, shredding and sharing.