Friday, October 10, 2014

Brand New Book from 1898!

How can you have a brand new book from 1898?

Well, when you order it from Abe Books and it comes to you with not a single page cut!

Books in the past were bound in folio form with larger sheets of paper folded and sewn into the binding, which meant the pages had to be "opened" (cut) to be read.  In the nineteenth century, books were being trimmed before they were bound, but some books were left uncut for the more refined readers.  A brief article and video about this appears at Abe Books here.

I enjoy reading books on Kindle, if it is a book I am reading cover to cover, but I prefer reading reference books and non-fiction books the traditional way - because I like to quickly skip around as I am studying or researching a topic.  The other problem with Kindle books are footnotes - especially from old books.  Several months ago I began reading the biography of Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry the VIII) by Arthur James Mason. It was one of those free, or nearly free, Kindle books with awkward formatting.  While reading, the footnotes appear in the middle of a sentence with a few odd characters thrown in. I can handle that OK, but it is often difficult to match up the footnote with the originating text.  Not a problem, if I wasn't interested in that point. But if it did pique my curiosity, I found myself wasting a bunch of time trying to find the source.

After several episodes of that, I decided to go to and see if I could find a used copy. I prefer hardbacks if I can afford them, so searched for that first. Surprisingly, I found a nineteenth century copy from England purported to be in very good condition, and it was just about the least expensive copy available. When it arrived I was pleased to see that the cover was in excellent condition.  However when I opened the book up I realized that not a single page had been cut. The book is 116 years old and it has never been read!  You might respond, "No kidding. It is a book about Thomas Cranmer. No wonder no one read it!"  I get it, but it is actually a very well written history book, and I am Anglican. So, I love it.  The crazy thing is, I am so pleased with the idea of having a new uncut book from 1898 that I can't bring myself to cut it!


Unknown said...

Great story. What a conflict. A book, meant to be read, yet resisting the reason for its' existence. You are like an OCD sufferer coping with need to adjust a photo of the Tower of Pisa.

Unknown said...

John the Moore was the last "Unknown" and this one as well.

Vanrensalier said...

John - you are so right! I finally cut two pages as an attempt to push myself over the edge. It was like scratching a brand new car on purpose, so that you would stop worrying about it getting scratched by accident!