Welcome to The Valve
Login
Register


Valve Links

The Front Page
Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Advanced Search

Articles
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

Comments
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

XHTML | CSS

Powered by Expression Engine
Logo by John Holbo

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

 


Blogroll

2blowhards
About Last Night
Academic Splat
Acephalous
Amardeep Singh
Beatrice
Bemsha Swing
Bitch. Ph.D.
Blogenspiel
Blogging the Renaissance
Bookslut
Booksquare
Butterflies & Wheels
Cahiers de Corey
Category D
Charlotte Street
Cheeky Prof
Chekhov’s Mistress
Chrononautic Log
Cliopatria
Cogito, ergo Zoom
Collected Miscellany
Completely Futile
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
Conversational Reading
Critical Mass
Crooked Timber
Culture Cat
Culture Industry
CultureSpace
Early Modern Notes
Easily Distracted
fait accompi
Fernham
Ferule & Fescue
Ftrain
GalleyCat
Ghost in the Wire
Giornale Nuovo
God of the Machine
Golden Rule Jones
Grumpy Old Bookman
Ideas of Imperfection
Idiocentrism
Idiotprogrammer
if:book
In Favor of Thinking
In Medias Res
Inside Higher Ed
jane dark’s sugarhigh!
John & Belle Have A Blog
John Crowley
Jonathan Goodwin
Kathryn Cramer
Kitabkhana
Languagehat
Languor Management
Light Reading
Like Anna Karina’s Sweater
Lime Tree
Limited Inc.
Long Pauses
Long Story, Short Pier
Long Sunday
MadInkBeard
Making Light
Maud Newton
Michael Berube
Moo2
MoorishGirl
Motime Like the Present
Narrow Shore
Neil Gaiman
Old Hag
Open University
Pas au-delà
Philobiblion
Planned Obsolescence
Printculture
Pseudopodium
Quick Study
Rake’s Progress
Reader of depressing books
Reading Room
ReadySteadyBlog
Reassigned Time
Reeling and Writhing
Return of the Reluctant
S1ngularity::criticism
Say Something Wonderful
Scribblingwoman
Seventypes
Shaken & Stirred
Silliman’s Blog
Slaves of Academe
Sorrow at Sills Bend
Sounds & Fury
Splinters
Spurious
Stochastic Bookmark
Tenured Radical
the Diaries of Franz Kafka
The Elegant Variation
The Home and the World
The Intersection
The Litblog Co-Op
The Literary Saloon
The Literary Thug
The Little Professor
The Midnight Bell
The Mumpsimus
The Pinocchio Theory
The Reading Experience
The Salt-Box
The Weblog
This Public Address
This Space: The Fire’s Blog
Thoughts, Arguments & Rants
Tingle Alley
Uncomplicatedly
Unfogged
University Diaries
Unqualified Offerings
Waggish
What Now?
William Gibson
Wordherders

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Decrepitude

Posted by Miriam Burstein on 11/19/05 at 10:46 PM

While I’ve always liked to think of myself as what a Hyde Park bookdealer once called the "blessedly pragmatic" type--in search of a working text instead of a collector’s item--I nevertheless have had a hard time overcoming my aversion to less-than-intact bindings.  That’s a remarkably foolish aversion, given my line of work: cheap texts generally feature cheap bindings, and cheap bindings generally survive...cheaply.  Let’s not even mention 1880s and 1890s paper, which has a dismaying tendency to (at best) turn autumnal shades of brown and (at worst) crumble into nothingness at the slightest touch.  Recently, though, I’ve started acquiring vast quantities of sermons, and Victorian sermons usually come in states of collapse ranging from the nude (no covers) to the discombobulated (no stitching).  So much for attractive-looking bookshelves. 

My first excursion into the realm of what’s politely called "the reading copy" took place during graduate school, when I acquired my "dilapidated Disraeli."  To be more precise, I acquired Edmund Gosse’s deluxe limited edition of Disraeli’s novels.  At one point, this was a remarkably pretty set (see here and here); now, alas, poor Dizzy has become spineless.  It doesn’t help that the leather is slowly but surely crumbling, producing random showers of colored dust.  For many years, this set hosted the only truly decrepit books in my collection, but it is acquiring a multitude of new friends.  The sermons, for example.  My copy of the British Pulpit, Vol. II, has covers; if only they were attached to the text block.  As it now stands, when I’m forced to choose between not having an important text and having one that looks like a special guest corpse on Law & Order, the corpse wins every time.  I’m delighted to finally have a decent complete set of John Lingard, even if he seems determined to prove that a book and its binding are soon parted; similarly, I’m pleased to have Neander on my shelves, even if his spines have a nasty habit of falling on the floor.  Obviously, a book on the verge of imminent collapse can make for awkward reading experiences--it’s most unnerving to watch one  silently disintegrate over the course of an evening.  (There are times when "deconstruction" takes on a whole new meaning.)  Still, better a book in fragments than no book at all. 


[X-posted from The Little Professor.]

Comments

I have some of the Storisende Edition of James Branch Cabell’s books, a set published 1927-1930.  They are really rather depressing as physical objects.  It was a limited edition of 1590, and Cabell actually signed each book, but you can get them for $10-$15 each (at least that’s what I paid) because he’s dropped in popularity so much since his heyday.  I vaguely remember Cabell mentioning (in one of his rambling later books) being proud of this edition—you know, finally his books in one uniform binding, with his Kalki rampant-stallion symbol embossed on the front and gilding on the top edge of the pages—but the copies that I got had clearly never been read, since every two pages had been made so that they were joined together on their long edge and needed to be cut in order to be seperated.  They were from different sets, too, so the non-reading must have been general.  The paper has held up pretty well (although every edge but the top one is rather ragged) but the binding tends to break at certain points when you open the book.  Sad, when you think of Cabell’s authorial vanity and his presumably marathon signing sessions (1590 sets times 18 books per set).

By on 11/20/05 at 12:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Miriam, are any of these texts possible candidates for digitalization? They must be in the public domain. Would they be suitable for something like Streetprint, say? (Streetprint creates digital facsimiles rather than vanilla text versions). The thought of all that crumbling paper is physically painful.

By Miriam Jones on 11/20/05 at 10:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Too many Miriams for this finite mind to handle easily.

By John Emerson on 11/20/05 at 04:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I hate a really old edition of the complete Schiller, printed in the old-school Gothic script.  I still haven’t satisfactorily determined why I bothered to acquire them, even though it was for free.  I printed off a translation guide for Gothic to Latin script, and it just increased my hopelessness.

By Adam Kotsko on 11/20/05 at 06:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Parapraxis?

By Jonathan on 11/20/05 at 06:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh, you guys should count yourselves lucky, dealing with C19th hardbacks…

I have innumerable books printed only in the past few years in Latin America that already have spines broken, pages falling out, and can never be photocopied… The standard of book production south of the border is, on the whole, really abominable.

By contrast, the C16th documents produced by the Spanish Empire, with which I was working over the summer, have held up remarkably well, all things considered.

By Jon on 11/21/05 at 01:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

It seems odd for a John to complain about the number of Miriams in the world. Me, I say “More Miriams! More!”

Anyway, I’m with Miriam J., but more so. Nowadays whenever I see a spine start to go, my first thought is “Easy scanning!“ It’s turned book mortality into something to celebrate: the spirit of the letter is not dead, brothers and sisters; it has merely broken the earthly bonds which held it to the shelf of my library, and now can roam free through the universe of discourse....

But then it would be nice to be able to rebind it, and rebinding’s awfully expensive, at least for private citizens. Any librarians around to tell us the institutional rates?

And then there are those cases where the cheap binding seems part of the point, like with my treasured Little Leather Library, or some pulps and comic books....

By Ray Davis on 11/21/05 at 10:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You guys should get into my line of work (ancient paleography)! Stone tablets and triumphal stelas last for millenia! Sure, sometimes the weathering is such that you can’t tell the Digammas from the Archaic Koppas, but at least you don’t have to worry about disintigrating bindings!

By on 11/21/05 at 06:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"The basic stock of books from my girlhood had been left behind in Russia: our great writers, German and Russian, as well as the books I studied in semisecrecy, some of which (Spinoza for example) I had obtained with some difficulty in exchange for jewelry I’d been given. But the major and annoying reason for the miserable state of my library was the following: that the thickness or weight of books caused me such problems when I was reading them lying down that I made a practice of tearing them into sections, and never bothered to have them rebound. And then I’ve always tended to lose them or give them away too, particularly those that meant the most to me. And I’m afraid there’s a special and somewhat foolish reason for this: a contempt for paperback editions published in the thousands because they are unsuited to their content; as if by all rights the contents should stand before our eyes as an independent intellectual and spiritual entity, with no relationship at all to paper.”

—Lou Andreas-Salome, Looking Back

By Ray Davis on 11/23/05 at 11:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Lat a thousand Miriams bloom. But they shouldn’t post the first comment on one another’s posts.

By John Emerson on 11/26/05 at 05:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Ha! See what you know. We are forming our own group blog: All Miriam, All The Time. So far there are only the two of us, but we hope to drag several others out of the woodwork. I would not be in the least surprised if several prominent pseudonymous bloggers did not turn out to be Miriams.

Or, we could go for a niche market and subtitle it, “a non-judgemental space for book fetishists.”

By Miriam Jones on 11/26/05 at 05:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

My first excursion into the realm of what’s politely called “the reading copy” took place during graduate school

I know this as “a working copy,” which you will see is one of the few tags I use in my LibraryThing catalog.

The definition of “a working copy”—learned from the sales catalogs of the late, great natural history dealer Wheldon and Wesley (see item #46 here)—is, “useful for information, but not a pleasure to possess.”

(Who was it who said—O yes Howells, “The mortality of all inanimate things is terrible to me, but that of books most of all.")

By Bob O'Hara on 12/16/05 at 02:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Add a comment:

Name:
Email:
Location:
URL:

 

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: