Books, books and more books

I love books.

I love reading books, I love making books, I love the way books smell and feel, I love seeing the rows of book spines on my bookshelves and knowing that each one contains a whole universe just waiting for me.

The thing is my husband loves books too. As much if not more than I do. And when we moved in together, we realized that between us, we had a rather massive library.  At first, most of it stayed in boxes.  And his in his book shelves and mine on mine.  Now that we are married, all of our stuff has merged.  And the books are just EVERYWHERE.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love books.  Which is why I feel bad when we aren’t giving some of our books the love and attention they deserve.  We have reached the critical mass point where there is simply no more space for new books in our library.  Which means, it is time to do some purging.  As painful as it is, some of the collection has got to go. But where should they go? It seems silly to just donate the books when we’ve spent so much time and money amassing them.  But selling them one at a time on ebay is not really a winning proposition either.  So what to do?

How about a used book store?  Turns out a lot of places in Portland are more than full up.  One woman told me she might be able to look at my books some time in late July. Right. Then she recommended I call The Green Hand on Congress St.  Best. Suggestion. Ever.

The Green Hand

I wandered in this afternoon with two boxes of books, hoping that Michelle, the owner, would consider taking half of them.  She took them all.  AND she offered me a choice of cash or store credit.  Now, a reasonable person would have taken the money and run.  I, however, have never been reasonable.  Especially not when I saw THIS in her pile of recent acquisitions:

From the Labyrinth of Love


So I took the store credit. And the book. And two more books besides. And I still have some credit left. So much for purging.

The strange thing about all of this is that unbeknownst to me, Michelle had just blogged about this very book on her blog for the store:

Insel Bucherei Treasure Trove

What can I say? Great minds like the same pretty books.

This book is significant to me for other reasons as well. I just finished a wonderful book binding/food/memory class with the marvelous and delightful Leon Johnson.  This little book represents a whole publishing idea – beautiful works at affordable prices.  As Michelle put it,

Insel Verlag began by exclusively printing exquisitely crafted high-cost books. However, with the start of the Insel Bucherei series in 1912, they recognized the need to produce affordable and attractive editions designed to appeal to customers with more modest financial means.

These books are still exquisitely made by modern standards.  The pages are stacked folios that are then sewed together by hand.  I bought a second book from this series.  It is slightly damaged – the spine of the book has come off.  But the book still holds together. Without the paper spine, the beautiful hand stitching that actually holds the book together is exposed.  This book will hold together for years to come even lacking a spine because its underlying structure is totally sound.  Modern paperbacks fall apart in 20 years or so (assuming they survive the first reading and are left alone on a shelf for the rest of the time).  Glue fails and the pages come away (any time a spine cracks, it is like a kiss of death).  But these books?  They are almost 100 years old and they are still totally solid (minus the odd paper spine).

I realize I’ve sort of drifted into another subject here.  Really, it all comes back to I LOVE BOOKS.  I have lots more to say on the subject, but it will all have to wait for another time. It is late and I’m sleepy and I have lots to do tomorrow.  So, g’night all.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by doctorcrankenstein on June 16, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    I love the smell of old books. The ones with brown pages that when you open you can see the fibres and dust darting towards your eyes like little daggers.

    I can get lost in second hand book shops for hours and hours. There is one near my house where the bookshelves are all falling over one another and in sections of the shop the books are just piled up in pyramids. Even though it’s an occupational health and safety nightmare to me It’s an explorers playground and I absolutely love it.

    Occasionally I buy a couple of books at a charity shop if they look interesting, if not I take them to a book exchange and swap them for something worth reading. I see it as a win/win situation, I’m supporting a charity and getting a book worth reading… others say it’s cheating.


  2. Trading books is never cheating! Just because you don’t happen to like a particular book doesn’t mean that someone else won’t either! I’m a big fan of book swaps and exchanges in whatever form they take. In the town I grew up in, there is a special part of the town dump called the “Swap Shop.” Its about as big as a three car garage. Basically everyone brings in whatever they want to get rid of, but that is too good to just throw away. I’ve found everything from computers and kitchen appliances to christmas decorations and furniture. A full half of it is devoted to books. You just leave what you don’t want and take whatever you do! It is only open to the people who live in town and it manages to maintain a sort of lovely equilibrium. Personally, I think it is up there with sliced bread as one of the best ideas ever.


  3. […] spark that was ignited earlier this summer by another class I took at the University.  I believe I mentioned before that I took a book binding class this summer and what a huge impact it had on me.  It reminded me […]


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