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bibliomania

Rachel Cooke presents an ode to good book design in the Observer, which also discusses the different ways in which we treat books. It's been a while since I read Anne Fadiman's delightful Ex Libris, but Cooke has reminded me of Fadiman's distinction between the different sorts of bibliophiles - those who are "courtly" or "carnal" book lovers. And I am, as anyone who's asked to borrow a book knows, a courtly book lover.

I look after books. It causes me genuine pain to crack a spine or crease a cover. I mean, I read A Suitable Boy without cracking the spine. Whether it's likely to rain or not, I keep a plastic bag in non-waterproof bags to protect books from water damage (I seriously can't bear to read wobbly water damaged books - the awful creaking of the pages!). Of course, I don't think everyone should keep to these freakish standards - unless I lend them a book. I make it very clear if I lend someone a book that I expect the lendee to look after it, and I can think of few ruder things than to treat someone else's book in a way in which they would not treat it themselves.

I don't give a shit if you crack your own books' spines or bend back the cover or write all over them or throw them down the stairs. But if you borrow my books, you look after them. Or you can replace them. And no, I'm not joking. I think if you borrow anything, from a saucepan to a pair of shoes, you treat them not as you treat your own stuff, but as the owner of the borrowed items treats hers. And yes, that goes even if you think the owner is anal or weird. I once loaned someone a book who returned to me a creased, water-rumpled mess without a word of apology. I can't imagine she'd have behaved the same way if I'd loaned her a top and she'd given it back to me in rags.

Is it anal? Yes. Is it verging on OCD? Probably. But they're my books. So I treat them my way. And anyone who borrows them should do the same.

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glitterboy1
Apr. 16th, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
I love Ex Libris. I rediscovered it on my shelf a couple of months ago, and promptly had to go and give a copy to a friend as a present. It's the sort of book you want to share.

I have the same thing about treating them carefully. I've lent books to friends, who have said, "Have you actually read this?" And I get very sad if they don't return them in the same condition. Which is odd: I'll buy second-hand books, even if they're not in perfect condition, and I don't mind that. But I hate damaging them myself.
stellanova
Apr. 16th, 2006 11:54 am (UTC)
I'm exactly the same! It's okay if you get them pre-wrecked, but to do it yourself....
slemslempike
Apr. 16th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
Me too! I generally try to get secondhand books in good condition, but I dont mind overly if they have to be rather battered. But I get really upset with myself if I don't manage to keep a book as pristine as possible, and when other people have returned books in lesser condition, I get rather cross.
glitterboy1
Apr. 16th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
I get really upset with myself...

Me, too! I packed a couple of books loose in the boot when I came over on Friday, and I really peeved with myself to find that the cover of one had got creased. It was just *unnecessary*.

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