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An old book is an old friend

Ivanhoe, an old friendIvanhoe: title pageA friend returned my copy of Ivanhoe last week. They had moved to another city and this little volume (about 4″ x 6″, 670 pages) had been packed away in one of their boxes for almost a year. It was funny how glad I was to see it again–I hadn’t been looking for it and didn’t remember that I’d loaned it out, but seeing it again was like running into an old friend.

This has been one of my favorite physical books for a long time–well-worn, yellowing pages, comfortable margins, with a simple but evocative cover design. The two-color cover illustration conveys a sense of the scene, but it’s simple enough that the imagination still has room to play. Printed in 1944, the book was designed well and built solidly enough that it has lasted for years. It has spent time in many libraries before mine–there are a number of previous owners’ names on the inside cover and faint pencil annotations throughout the text.

The book is more than the text

I could have downloaded and read Ivanhoe at any point in the last year, or found a copy at our bookstore, but seeing the physical book brought back memories and associations that the text alone could not. Reading the same text on a screen or on crisp, anonymous paper would give me the story but not the experience of spending time with my shabby little friend.

Is there an old book on your shelf that has become a friend? I’d love to see pictures of old books that have been with you forever. Tweet them to @PaperbackPage or post them on our Facebook page and (with your permission) I’ll include them here.

From other bookshelves

Songs of Men, Robert Frothingham, 1918-DFB

Songs of Men, Robert Frothingham, 1918

“This is my all time favorite book…a compilation of songs from the 19th century that there is no known music to, but the poetry and lyrics live on. I’ve written some music for a few of my favorites, but never feel it does the words justice.” –DFB

 

The Horatio Hornblower series, C. S. Forester

The Horatio Hornblower series, C. S. Forester

“I picked up the first book at the library while I was in middle school, which is not a typical book for a 13 year old girl. My grandpa found me reading it and excitedly brought me out to his shed. Turns out the series were a favorite of his growing up and he actually had most of them which he insisted that I keep. I’ve carried them through almost a dozen moving days but I’ve honestly only ever read the first book. I just like having them, they were my grandpa’s, and they are wonderfully yellowed, tempered with age and that amazing old book smell. There is even some dirt on them from shed storage that I don’t have the guts to clean because, you know, grandparent feelings. I do plan on reading them to my baby boy though, when he’s old enough.” –SZ

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