Browsing, serendipity and books made to last

The Tower at Sissinghurst Castle

The Tower (built in the 1560s) at Sissinghurst Castle

Last year, I took my green-thumbed mother to England to celebrate her birthday with a tour of the ‘Gardens of England’ and the Chelsea Flower Show. Today I wandered into a local book fair, not expecting more than tattered paperbacks, yet I found treasures: two Folio Society books in mint condition, still in their slip cases and on offer for just $10 each. One was In Your Garden and In Your Garden Again by Vita Sackville-West. This was an unexpected windfall for my mother, as one of the gardens we visited in 2012 was Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

While we were at Sissinghurst, we climbed the Castle’s Elizabethan tower to see Vita’s writing room and take in the views of the gardens. The tower is shown in silhouette on the cloth binding of In Your Garden.

Folio Society edition of In Your Garden by Vita Sackville-West

Folio Society edition of In Your Garden by Vita Sackville-West

The Jubilee Years 1887-1897

At today’s book fair, I also picked up the Folio Society’s The Jubilee Years 1887-1897, which fell open at a chapter called The Music Hall, the Theatre and Oscar Wilde (meaning I was unlikely to put it down and walk away).

In England last year, I bought a lovely memento of that green and pleasant land: an illustrated collection of poetry celebrating the British landscape called Ode to the Countryside. I’ve made a note on the end papers to remind myself that I bought the book at Nymans, West Sussex. Now the book, the poetry and my memories of the countryside are one.

The ruins at Nymans

The ruins at Nymans

I Watched a Blackbird from Ode to the Countryside

I Watched a Blackbird from Ode to the Countryside, edited by Samuel Carr

As convenient as it is to carry around a whole library on one slim digital device, I’m constantly reminded of the tactile pleasures and longevity of the printed book.

Salomé by Oscar Wilde, second edition in English

Salomé by Oscar Wilde, second edition in English, London, 1907, printed by John Lane, bound in gilt green linen. Includes 16 Beardsley illustrations and a folding facsimile of the 1905 cast list from the Richard Strauss opera.

Beardsley illustrations within Salome by Oscar Wilde

Beardsley illustrations within Salome by Oscar Wilde

1905 cast list from the Richard Strauss opera, Salome

1905 cast list from the Richard Strauss opera, Salome

At an antiquarian book fair in 2011, I bought a 1907 English edition of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé (Wilde wrote the original in French, which was published in 1893) and a 1902 edition of Robert Harborough Sherard’s Oscar Wilde: The Story of An Unhappy Friendship.

Spine of Oscar Wilde: An Unhappy Friendship by Robert Sherard

Spine of Oscar Wilde: An Unhappy Friendship by Robert Sherard

Oscar Wilde: The Story of An Unhappy Friendship by Robert Harborough Sherard

Oscar Wilde: The Story of An Unhappy Friendship by Robert Harborough Sherard, first edition, London, 1902, privately printed by The Hermes Press. Includes facsimiles of letters by Oscar Wilde.

Although my e-book reader is only two years old it has started to malfunction, yet these old ‘dead tree’ books, Salomé and Oscar Wilde are still readable and beautiful after more than 100 years. Surely that makes them greener and more useful than a plastic, metal and chemical device that hasn’t lasted three?

2 comments

  • I agree about the longevity of the printed page versus the epage. I envy your book tour. It’s obvious you are a Book Booster. Consider joining the roll call of other book aficionados. Check out my Book Boosters page. No dues, but I am working on a secret handshake.
    Happy Pages,
    CricketMuse

    Like

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