The Care of Books

Jot 101 care for books bookworm

Found at Jot HQ the other day—The Private Library—an attractively bound volume of 1897 by the antiquarian A(rthur) L. Humphreys, author of  How to Write a Village History, Old Decorative Maps and Charts and the Berkshire Book of Song, Rhyme and Steeple Chime.

Among the various interesting things he has to say about books in general is his section on ‘The Care of Books ‘. These observations may be listed in a number of sub-headings which could appear thus:-

1) Anecdotes by Andrew Lang.

‘…( Sir Walter ) Scott was very careful; he had a number of wooden dummies made, and, when a volume was borrowed, he put the dummy in its place on the shelf, inscribing it with the name of the borrower. He also defended his shelves with locked brazen wires. ‘ Tutus clausus ero’ ( “ I shall be safe if shut up “) , his anagram, was his motto, under a portcullis…Housemaids are seldom bibliophiles. Their favourite plan is to dust the books, and then rearrange them on fancy principles, mostly upside down. One volume of Grote will be put among French novels, another in the centre of a collection of sports, a third in  the midst of modern histories…The diversity of sizes, from folio to duodecimo, makes books very difficult to arrange where room is scanty. Modern shelves in most private houses allow no room for folios, which have to lie, like fallen warriors, on their sides.’

2) Heat and dust as enemies of books.

‘Mr Poole , a very experienced American librarian…made an experiment in the upper gallery of a library, and found that—“ while the temperature of the floor was 65* Fahr., that of the upper gallery was found to be 142*. Such a temperature dries up the oil of the leather and burns out its life. Books cannot live where men cannot live.”

In London particularly dust, smoke, and soot get at books and do great damage. To have the top edges gilded is an excellent way to prevent dust getting into the leaves. Books which have roughly trimmed tops harbour dust much more readily, and it is with great difficulty removed from such…Books should not be either swung together

or beaten together. The carpet in a library should not reach the wall, or right to the cases, but should fall short so as to be removed when required to be cleaned…’ Continue reading

The fate of the Sangorski Omar 2

The second and last part of an article on Sangorski's  ill-fated Omar Khayyam binding. It was found in Piccadilly Notes: an occasional  publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs (1929).   A contemporary eyewitness account talks of Sangorski's Omar with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover..' Less commonly known is  the odious role played by New York customs officials in the affair and that the magnificent book was, in fact, making its second trip across the Atlantic when it was lost forever beneath the waves. J.H. Stonehouse writes:

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The fate of the Sangorski Omar 1

The Great Omar*
Found in an offprint from Piccadilly Notes (circa 1930) this article about (possibly) the most lavish binding the world had ever seen. The magazine billed itself as 'an occasional  publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs.' it was edited by J.H. Stonehouse and this article is by him…

It was in 1907 that I first met Sangorski, when he brought a letter of introduction from a church dignitary, and asked to be allowed to show me a lectern bible which the Archbishop of Canterbury had commissioned his firm to bind, previous to its presentation by King Edward VII to the United States in commemoration of the tercentenary of the established church in America. I recognised at once the justice of his contention that there was something more in the design and execution of the work than was usually to be found in an ordinary piece of commercial binding and that the appreciation of it which had been expressed in the press was fully justified.

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