Sunday, September 25, 2011
Of the delectation which accompanies the leisurely examination, pencil in hand, of a second-hand bookseller's list, something has just been said. In the recesses of an arm-chair one can become, in fancy, the owner of first folios without even the exertion of nodding. "Gerard's Herbal, £2?" "Yes, I may as well have that; " and the proprietary cross springs into being on the margin. "Dame Juliana Berners' Boke of St Albans?" "And I will have that too"—another cross. "John Florio's Montaigne, quarto?" "Ah! at last! " And so one goes on. What it is like actually to buy from Mr. Quaritch's list I have no notion. Such purchases as I have made of that great man (now, alas! no more) were carried through one-sidedly, in a not strictly commercial manner, for the library of a castle on the other side of the Pyrenees; hence I can speak only as a poor man. A poor man with a book catalogue is a feasting Barmecide, yet without his haste to despatch the meal. Or, rather, he is as one who through the panes of a sealed window watches without envy a procession of those dishes of which he may not partake. Without envy; for, if covetousness at all worthy the name takes part in his feelings, he can never know the enjoyment of catalogues to the full. A mild, well-ordered inclination (to add sauce to the perusal) may be his, but nothing more; he must be utterly without rancour that others are richer than he.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.