I love books. Especially old books.I love corner bookstores, boxes of books in dusty attics, and the smell of ink and paper. I love the heft of a big book in my hands, the riffling of pages, the feeling of discovery as you open to the first page, and the look of a well-stocked library. Anthony Powell was right: Books do make a room.
E-books are great for both readers and writers. But as bookstores close and publishers struggle, I wish publishers would take a step back in time and capitalize on the qualities people have always loved in books—the qualities nookbooks and Kindle editions just can't replicate. There’s no point in competing with e-publishers to make books that are cheaper, less cumbersome to carry, or easier to distribute. So why not make them beautiful?
Wouldn't it be great if we brought back the days when books had beautiful leather bindings and marbled endpapers; gilt decorated covers and quaint illustrations pasted on the front?. I owned a used bookstore years ago, and as you can see there were quite a few finds I couldn’t bear to sell. I held on to some favorite novels in gilt-decorated editions; lots of beautifully illustrated animal books, and of course a collection of old horse training manuals to feed my cowboy obsession.
Back in the golden age of publishing, the book itself was a work of art. Novels were often illustrated, and I wish that would come back into fashion. Dickens was brought to life by “Phiz.” Mark Twain’s characters were visualized by E.W. Kemble, and children’s books had memorable illustrations by A.B. Frost, Arthur Rackham, and other forgotten artists.
I think today’s readers would welcome beautiful books into their lives. And what better recommendation could there be for a novel than for a publisher to put out a keepsake edition, artfully printed and gloriously illustrated? Yes, it would be expensive. But I’d gladly pay a premium for a fine edition of the books I consider “keepers.”
Do you have a particularly beautiful book you treasure? What books would you like to have in a deluxe illustrated edition?