Book as object

We got a weird topic on the table today: some comments about a book as a physical object.
Normally in my reading life, I shun this kind of thing; the whole book-as-artifact/valuable-book-collector thing is really puzzling to me. I’m all about the text. Whether or not it’s a first edition matters to me, as a reader, Not One Bit. (As a librarian, there are other considerations. But as a reader, just give me the words!)
But, I gotta tell you, I had a book-as-relic moment recently.
I got a copy of Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy from a nearby public library, and it’s the original 1963 edition (which would be the same edition mentioned on an episode of Mad Men; I think maybe Ken Cosgrove said something about the book while riding in the elevator).
And the edges of the pages of this copy of the book are velvety soft, reminiscent of the pages of so many books I borrowed from the library when I was a kid. It’s even got that library book smell. So it took me back to those wonderful days.
And then I opened to the Table of Contents page and saw there, along the inner margin, a penciled marking made by a library staffer when the book was received: “11-6-63.”
And it stopped me for a while.
I was thinking about the fact that this book was received during the Kennedy administration, which would last only 2 ½ more weeks.
Damn. Pencil marks in a book throwing me into a melancholy reverie.
Anyway, more about this book (as a text) on Friday.

2 thoughts on “Book as object

  1. Ash

    It's interesting that you're not interested in the book as an object. The focus of my English major is book studies, which is a little unorthodox but I just fell into it. I love looking at pencil marking in books and I'm always so sad when I have to erase them at my job (preservation at the library).

  2. Ash,

    Well, I should say that I do love books as objects. I adore being in their presence.

    I just don't get spending a zillion dollars on a first-edition, where the object becomes the all-important thing — and nobody ever reads that first edition copy again because it's too valuable as a relic. It's just not my thing.

    Pencil markings in books are pretty fascinating, especially to those of us (me!) who never write in books. What made a person need to write that particular note there? Interesting.

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