Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Life list

I keep a little notebook of ideas for this blog, and looking at it I see several things I always meant to talk about and didn't, so I'll cover a few of those this week. First one: I've always had big dreams, my whole life long. Some are attainable, people do actually do these things, they are do-able, they do exist in the physical world: to stand alone on the deck of the Victory, to buy books at Powell's, to climb the slopes of Vesuvius, to buy books at Maggs, to learn Latin and Greek, to speak French in France, to buy books at Quaritch, to see the Southern Cross from the deck of a ship, to see my own books on the shelves in a new bookstore, to stand on the slopes of Parnassus above Delphi, to plant huge beds of flowers in my own garden, for no other purpose than beauty. Some dreams are more intangible, and more private. Shall I ever do these things, or is it enough just to know these are what I would do, if I could? I'm not sure. I do tend to read about the things I want to do, rather than do the things themselves. Often this is indeed enough. But not all the time. I guess I've got some living to do - and time's a'wastin'. This is not to say that I haven't realized many of my dreams - opening my bookshop being one. I've also gazed at Catherine the Great's carriages and dresses at the museum in the Kremlin in Moscow, corresponded with one of my literary heroes, created a significant body of work, and found a life partner who supports my endeavours, not just tolerates them (which considering all the damn books, is saying a lot). Hey, you know, life is pretty good.

Meanwhile, a few more books from home. Kim asked about miniature books, and while this field is hotly collected, I don't have much myself. I do love to see dealers at antiquarian bookfairs who specialize in miniatures, though, because the books are usually lovely and almost unbelievable in their tiny perfection. And they display very well - a tiny doll's cupboard or piece of antique child's furniture is just right on a table with miniature books. John Carter's fine book (incidentally, one of the books that precipitated me headlong into the book business - and in retrospect it was a seduction, plain and simple) ABC for Book Collectors says miniatures usually measure under two inches by an inch and a half. So the books I show below aren't technically minis, but I like them anyway. Here's the first:

It's George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company & Conversation. Small-Tall Editions, printed in an edition of 1000 copies in 1975 by The Stinehour Press, Lancaster, New Hampshire, for The New England Press. The book measures two inches wide by four and a half inches high. Light gray paper covers over stiff cardstock; black lettering on spine and front cover. Within, much advice in a list, numbered and written by Washington in a childhood notebook circa 1745, regarding dress, table manners, conversation, one's station in life, basic manners, the wisdom of eschewing flattery, and the like, but the very last item is my particular favorite:

"110th: Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial Fire called Conscience."

The second little book for today is not a miniature either, but it still qualifies as rather small:

It's Typographia, a collection of three very short articles by E.M. Diamant about typography, entitled Old Types Never Fade Away, The New Trends...Wide Types, and The Graveyard of Private Types. Decorative paper over boards. Text set in linotype Scotch Roman. A delicious little thing, truly, published by The Diamant Typographic Service, New York, in an edition of 1000, "For Distribution to Friends of the Graphic Arts." The colophon tells us that this is the eighth book in the series of Diamant Classics. I wish I had the other seven!

The only other thing I have about miniature books is a book about Queen Mary's doll house - which has a fine library. The books in it were written and/or commissioned and bound specifically for the doll house by noted authors of the day and are fully readable. If your eyesight is good, that is.

More to follow over the next few days - I've got a few more things to say about this and that, and a few more books to share. Thanks for the kind comments, those of you that wrote in - they sure do mean a lot to me.

Ah, Sarah,
What can I say, I found your blog a month ago and enjoyed it so much. I will look often to see if you have posted anything new. I hope you can keep the shop open, but I know how hard it is to do it. I wish you the best of luck and will miss your thoughts. They always gave me something interesting to mull over no matter how the rest of my day went. Best of luck - Jodi
So what did you have for your lunch then?
Jodi - just received your letter, thanks so much! Your reactions to the books were about what mine were, across the board. I plan on keeping the shop open at least through the upcoming season, then taking stock and seeing what's next. I've got lots of good ideas. I will always sell books, that much I know.

Dear Jonathan - foie gras on crostini, with truffle oil. Yum.

Just kidding. If you really want to know: an orange, a plain bagel, peach soy yogurt, a Clif bar, and water. Lord help me. Where, I ask you, is my foie gras. Where is my crostini.
Dear Sarah,
Thanks for sharing the miniatures! I loved the ones you had. There's something fun about having oddly sized but beautiful books, even if they're not technically miniatures. :) My favorite oddly sized book is the one by Jean Fritz called Leonardo's Horse, about Leonardo's giant horse. The top of the book is curved. I do have a few miniatures, but not anything really good. May have to look for a few things just to have fun searching!

Your life list sounds interesting. I don't know if I've ever had one, but maybe I'll start putting one together.

Thanks again for sharing the miniatures!
Hey Kim - I forgot that I also have a great little miniature dictionary, about an inch by an inch and a half, it's a little darling... I think it cost me six or seven dollars at a bookfair. Many miniature books aren't expensive. Of course, some are VERY. I have a friend here in town who collects minis - she keeps them on her coffee table with little tiny bookends she picked up somewhere, becaue she likes seeing them every day. Of course she has more (regular-size) books all over the rest of her house, too.

Re life lists - the older I get, the less stuff I want (except books?), but the more experiences I want to have. What is one's definition of living, kind of thing. I think I lifted this idea from serious birdwatchers - who often have a life list on which they keep track of rare birds they've seen over the course of their entire lives. Why not travel around the world just to see a rare sight. Stuff - can't take it with you!
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