Monday, December 29, 2008

Tactile Treasures

Henry Alford recently wrote an interesting essay for the New York Times titled "You Never Know What You'll Find in a Book." The brief essay isn't so much a commentary on the current state of printed matter as it is a discussion on the many surprises (and uses) that books hold for the reader. He speaks of the many mysterious objects recorded to have been found in books over the years, randing from fried bacon to 40 $1,000 bills. At one point Alford goes on to ask,"Who knows what puzzling items lurk, or soon will, on the bookshelves of the world?" Such a question immediately reminded of my first trip to San Francisco and a rather interesting adventure that led me to Green Apple Books and the purchase of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" (I was actually looking for "Crime and Punishment"). As I flipped through the cracked and stained pages I stumbled across a typed note from an unknown party explaining the purchase and gifting of the book to a young man on his 21st birthday.

Beyond the content and surprises, there is the actual book design, which gives many as much pleasure as the actual wordage - if not more. Most importantly, books contain a story that goes far beyond (or will go far beyond) the actual pages, and this makes print an experience not soon to be replicated by the internet or any hideous plastic reading devices.