Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Love of Old Books

An avid reader from an early age, I could usually be found with my head in a book.

But I have always had a passion for old books. 

There is something wonderful about an old book, not only in the promise of the story contained within the covers, but the very feel of the thick coarse pages, the vintage appearance (even if battered and tattered) and the tantalising "old book smell" that evokes a magical sense of nostalgia and intrigue enhancing the experience of enjoyment when reading such a book.


Old books do not have to be exquisitely bound first editions; dog-eared Puffin and Penguin vintage paperbacks have their own fascination and absorbing stories from another era.

This enthrallment simply cannot be captured with today's two-a-penny throw away paperbacks in the shops or indeed by staring at yet another screen in the form of a Kindle. (Practical though it may be, but then I have never been one for practicalities!)

These beautiful floral bound books are displayed in a French farmhouse

along with vintage books about rambling.

Now I am well aware of the potential hazards of collecting old books - the downward spiral when a collection becomes clutter that slowly starts to encroach upon living space; then the collector develops a reluctance to part with anything - thus transforming Collector into Hoarder; something I am determined I shall not do, (well - not to the extreme anyway!), yet old books have such a charm that I cannot help but want to display them. 

I confess I am rather envious of the stacks of old books that line the stairs, 

and are displayed in cabinets and upon tables at Trevoole Farm in Cornwall

One of my favourite old books that enthralls me every time I read it is Daphne Du Maurier's "Frenchman's Creek"; 

the cherished old worn copy that I possess purchased many years ago from a book sale in the Old Linenhall Library for the princely sum of 10 pence.

I am acutely conscious though that my precious copy is now so well-thumbed that it is in a precariously fragile state and I hesitate to reread it for fear of it disintegrating further.

Quite happily I will while away my time browsing through second hand bookshops oblivious as the day slips inexorably past, minutes turning into hours. Even whilst on holiday in Ville Franche Sur Mer, I could not resist the book stall at the Sunday flea market and my attention caught by the title and brightly illustrated cover, I succumbed to a book entitled "Fleurs De Jardin", - the pristine condition belying the fact that it is well over forty years old..

However when I awoke early on Saturday morning with the wind hurling fat raindrops upon my window and a hotness behind my eyes as a clue that a winter lurgy may be in the offing, I did not feel inclined in the slightest to venture forth from under the warmth of my duvet to visit the yearly book fair held in the old Country House Estate.

The lure of old books won over and I was rewarded for my efforts by the rain clouds clearing and the sun shining upon a rather soggy autumn morning. 

The country lanes were flooded and puddles were everywhere as I walked past Green Row,

and then through the woods along the lough shore

towards the Country Estate.

The fair was held in one of the buildings surrounding the courtyard - the very same building that in the past I have had a stall with my soaps on display during a different sort of fair.

Inside the light was dim and it was not easy to distinguish the titles of the rows upon rows of books filling the room. 

Dust particles danced in the thin slivers of light streaming through the small windows, but the shadowy gloom in the old stone vaulted building created an ethereal atmosphere and reminded me of being in an old library with spectres of writers past flitting from within the covers of antiquated manuscripts. Voices were unconsciously hushed as we perused old gardening books, leafed through historical scripts, and rummaged amongst dusty Agatha Christie novels occasionally interspersed with children's storybooks.

I noticed a rather sweet 1943 edition of Mary Poppins that I couldn't resist

and purchased - possibly with a view to a gift for M or L when they are older, or what is more likely - to adorn a shelf in La Petite Maison with some of my other nostalgic childhood memorabilia. (M and L can read it when they come to stay!)

The books on offer were varied; George Elliot's "Mill on the Floss" was squeezed between Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice" and a thick volume entitled "A History of English Literature",

whilst a 1957 copy of "Gone With The Wind" jostled alongside a copy of "Whiskey Galore", "Robinson Crusoe" and "The Three Musketeers".

To my delight I found a maroon bound book embossed with gold lettering (minus the dust jacket, but nonetheless still as appealing), containing three novels by Daphne Du Maurier, 

two of which "Rebecca" and "Jamaica Inn" I have read, but do not have copies of and the third - "Frenchman's Creek"; a fitting replacement for my worn out old edition, and it cost all of 50 pence!

Upon reflection however I find that I cannot bear to discard the old book, regardless of it's decrepit condition and so it will remain along with other favourites such as "The Enchanted April".

Oh Dear! Two copies of the same book, one of which I cannot bear to part with! Does this mean that I am on the slippery slope to becoming a hoarder?



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