Saturday, September 11, 2010
My Old Liddell and Scott
My old Liddell and Scott still serves me, and if, in opening it, I bend close enough to catch the scent of the leaves, I am back again at that day of boyhood (noted on the fly-leaf by the hand of one long dead) when the book was new and I used it for the first time. It was a day of summer, and perhaps there fell upon the unfamiliar page, viewed with childish tremor, half apprehension and half delight, a mellow sunshine, which was to linger for ever in my mind.See Holbrook Jackson, The Anatomy of Bibliomania (1950; rpt. New York: Avenel Books, 1981), pp. 611-614 (Part XXXI: The Five Ports of Book Love, Section III: Smelling) for more quotations by Gissing (p. 613) and others on the smell of books. Jackson doesn't cite W. Somerset Maugham, The Magician (New York: Duffield & Company, 1909) p. 69:
Susie was enchanted with that strange musty smell of old books, and she took a first glance at them in general. For the most part they were in paper bindings, some of them neat enough, but more with broken backs and dingy edges; they were set along the shelves in serried rows, untidily, without method or plan. There were many older ones also in bindings of calf and pigskin, treasure from half the bookshops in Europe; and there were huge folios like Prussian grenadiers; and tiny Elzevirs, which had been read by patrician ladies in Venice.