Surprise in an Old Book
I like old books (Who am I kidding? Some of my best friends are old books!), so if I come upon one that’s irresistibly priced, I’ll take a second look, even if the cover looks a bit shabby. Like this dusty specimen:
I picked this up from the Labyrinth — otherwise known as the $1 section of The Last Bookstore, that garden of earthly delights in downtown Los Angeles. If you like books, you should go. But I digress. The spine on this little book was missing, so of course I had to open it and see what it was. It was heavy in my hand — a sure sign of a well-crafted book. The endpapers were faded, but yes — decorated, too. I do love pretty books.
It was at this point in our shopping day that we realized it was time to walk back to the metro station. I tucked the old book into my stack and left without looking further. A month later when I got home and unpacked it, I made two more pleasing discoveries.
I still wasn’t sure what the book would be about, but there was an introduction by one of my favorite authors, G. K. Chesterton. Anything that has been graced with a Chestertonian touch is bound to be worth a second look. But honestly — what was the title of this book? Finally, a turn of the page revealed not only the somewhat odd title, but also more beautiful decorations.
The title of the book is Reprinted Pieces, etc. also, The Lamplighter, to be read at Dusk, and Sunday under Three Heads by Charles Dickens. That is one of the oddest titles I’ve ever encountered in years of book collecting. I’m delighted that it is Dickens, of course, though I have to finish Our Mutual Friend before I can start this. It’s bound to be good, because on the page facing the title page, Sir Philip Sidney promises that it will be
A tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
I’ll let you know.