Friday, 15 September 2006

Bought some books

I bought some books, Hoo-rah. Thought you might like to hear about them.
Since reading this fantastic post of Duck's about how a book is put into hard bindings I've paid a lot more attention to book bindings and especially headbands. That probably contributed purchase no #1, definitely an impulse buy:

the bookshop at uni has a sale at the moment and these biographies - Penguin Lives is the series title - were $8 each. So yesterday I bought the Jane Austen, by Carol Shields, and the Herman Melville, by Elizabeth Hardwick. And last night I read most of the first and about half of the second, and both were so very good that today I went back for more, and got Virginia Woolf (Nigel Nicholson) Charles Dickens (Jane Smiley) and James Joyce (Edna O'Brien).

A lot of effort and calculation has gone into designing these books in order to appeal to the baser book fetishist / "collect the set" instincts in us all - the page edges are ragged, not cut clean (what is that called, A. Duck?) and under the dustjackets the books have co-ordinating but not identical decorated boards.

I don't know whether I like this sort of thing or not. The books are really nice to handle and easy to read. But I can't help suspecting that the whole exercise might've substantially originated with a collaboration between Penguin's marketing and design wings. George Eliot, for example, probably was never a candidate for biographing in this series...

(And while we're on the subject of writers' portraits, I've been having fun with the new Author Gallery feature at LibraryThing - it displays public domain pictures of the authors in your catalogue. Jane Austen looks good next to Balzac. Thomas Love Peacock physically resembles his books. Most of those people I haven't seen images of before and some are pretty surprising.)

Purchase #2 has been settling into its new surrounds in my office for a while now but the vendor said "mention it on your blog some time" so here it is: the entire 20 volume run of Scrutiny.

I know this will come in useful someday. I have already managed to clear several bulging folders of photocopied articles now rendered redundant by having the originals on hand. And last week I was able to look up what is actually on the pages cited in a mock footnote toward the end of Possession, which in theory I could have done any time before simply by walking over to the library, but in practice I did not.

Purchase #3 is....another Mansfield Park. I have eight copies now. This one came from America via eBay.

It is the first of this particular much reprinted Victorian edition, illustrated by Hugh Thomson, published by Macmillan in 1897. This book too is a bit graphically overcooked for my taste. But it's been carefully and beautifully made and has aged pretty well.


JM said...

sigh. books are so cool.

Ampersand Duck said...


I also love the author gallery. Can't wait until I enter in some of my fiction, because some of the combinations are hilarious.

I believe a hardbound book with a deckled (ragged) edge is called an American Binding, but there could be other terms for it. I shall check when I get a mo.

I like that set, but surely it will be broken up and distributed into the colour-coded shelves? :)

Mags said...

I have the Carol Shields Austen book--I don't consider it a biography, though. It's more of a personal reader's opinion type of thing. She too obviously tried to project her own life onto Austen's--for example, suggesting that Jane's fatal illness was breast cancer (Carol Shields died of breast cancer a couple years after the book was published). However, it is a very enjoyable read, and I think Henry Tilney would approve of your calling it a "nice book." ;-)

I've also made a small start collecting the Dent editions of Jane Austen illustrated by the Brock brothers--there are two sets, one from 1898 illustrated by both brothers (they each did three of the novels) and one from the first decade of the 20th century illustrated with beautiful watercolor paintings by C.E. Brock alone. The latter are truly beautiful books, though of course they are 100 years old and rather beat up, but you can see how gorgeous they were. The covers and the end papers alone make me swoon.

Maybe once I get all of those, I'll work on Hugh Thomson's...that looks like a very nice book indeed.

worldpeace_and_aspeedboat said...

oh, that copy of Mansfield Park looks delicious. I am a terrible sucker for pre-30's books. some Victorian ones are bit overblown but that has great leanings to Art Noveau which sucks me in every time. it's tasty.

have you ever bought any Folio Society books? sigh. every year I try and scrape together enough money to resubscribe. I can usually afford to get the cheaper volumes. arghlegahhh... yummy books.

lucy tartan said...

I never have bought a Folio Society book, but their Austen editions are very pretty with gorgeous woodcuts and I would love to have a set....but they're too pricey for me at the moment. And not likely to get cheaper.

I liked Carol Shield's book. And you're right, it's not strictly life writing. Although she's not alone in questioning the Addison's Disease diagnosis, it is the first time I've read anyone say she had breast cancer.

Ampersand Duck said...

Speedy, when I was a FS member (yonks ago) I would order one or two things I liked then ask friends if they wanted anything. Easiest way to stay a member. But then I quit out of frustration over their crappy hyphenation. Boy, I showed 'em. I still drool over them in secondhand stores and I'd probably rejoin if they offered a free gift I didn't already have.

Harry said...

Try some of Patrick Hamilton's early books if you like pre-1930 title. They are the most approximate thing to Victorian literature that is not actually Victorian.

Harry said...

The Folio Society books are very expensive and somewhat uninteresting in their range of titles. I used to collect them for a while, but the grew tired of their constant marketing ploys!