Thursday, January 24, 2013


a brush with greatness

Today I was looking back over some photographs from the past year, and I found a few that I meant to post here, but never did (I see I did put them on facebook, of which I was enamored for a while, now, not so much, since advertising has creeped in, but I digress).  Anyway, the photos, here they are.  Long story short, late last spring Ryan and I took a car ride and he told me we were going somewhere to see something special, but wouldn't tell me where we were going or what it was we were going to see.  I sat back and enjoyed the scenery.  I love a good mystery ride.  Hey, it's Maine, there's always somewhere to go and something wonderful to see at the end of the trip.  Anyway, as we got closer and closer to our destination, the options were narrowing, and I realized that a certain bookshop must be the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I fussed and whined, Noooo, I have noooo money, I can't buy any boooooks, whyyyy are we going there, don't make meeee...  So attractive, I know.  But Ryan wouldn't take no for an answer.  He knew, you see, from stopping in there the week before on his own, that there was a book at this particular shop I needed to spend some time with.  And, oh, there was.  Such a book.  One of the truly great books of all time.  

Do you see, do you see what it is?  Look at it, it's so huge!  I had no idea it was physically this big a book (I mean, logically I knew it was big, and I do know what the measurements of a folio are, but it's so different and tactile when it's actually in your hands)!

I mean, just look at it!  Wow!  That, my friends, is a BOOK!  And this is only volume one of two!  Of course, a huge personality like Samuel Johnson's had to have found an equally huge format to pour his genius into, and this set is surely it.  A beautiful first edition of A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755. What an occasion!  And me in my weekend schlub clothes, feeling as if I should be in formal wear instead!  Oh noble title page, printed in red and black ink: 

Oh leatherbound folios.  How elegantly simple and fine you are.  I wish you could come and live with us at our house for a while.  But no, they remain upright and happy in their glass case at Merrill's Bookshop in downtown Hallowell, Maine:

At least, they were there many months ago, waiting patiently for the right buyer.  Sadly, at $20,000 for the set, even though the price is very reasonable for such a treasure, that buyer is not me (would Johnson say not I?).  Perhaps by now it has sold.  Frankly I have had neither the heart nor the opportunity to go back and find out.  But I remain thankful that John allowed me to handle volume one gently, and dream, for a short time.  Opening the front cover felt like clasping hands with one of my heroes.  And that lovely soft paper - turning the pages became whispering about the past with an old sweetheart.  

Sarah - I have never touched a book that old - what a great experience and how thoughtful it was of Ryan to take you there. A memory for any booklover to cherish.
It was so wonderful, Kathleen. Something about certain first editions, they hold tangible magic.

Get thee to a good library, and handle some fine books! Doing so makes you believe, really believe, that human endeavor actually means something.
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