Sunday, 10 February 2019

Bibliophilia – or bibliomania?


I like to call myself a bibliophile, but resolved I would not buy any more books ahead of contemplated house move, (whenever this takes place. It’s a ongoing work in progress). Packing the thousand-odd volumes here is going to be enough of a trial, plus the storage trunks in the attic (I can’t recall what’s in those!). I’ve run out of bookcases and shelf space – and the floor is rapidly building its own little towers, like some weird variety of Jenga, or Lego. Thus, what to do? Carry on foraging for titles, of course, on Abe, Amazon, Awesome, etc. Okay, so these are books needed for finalising the thesis (that’s my excuse) and sometimes a scarce work you covet but see advertised second hand at £70 or so will turn up elsewhere on the ‘Net for a couple of quid, including p&p. (It did!) Then, having sourced what I wanted, and on the point of signing out of a book site, I spied a list of most expensive volumes of 2018. Who wouldn’t have a peek?
  Goodness me! And I thought my habit was expensive. A 1638 first edition of Galileo’s final work, the Discorsi (Discourses on Two New Sciences), bound in contemporary vellum, and one of the greatest science books ever produced, is offered at £74,765.22p. I’m unsure what twenty-two pence might signify, but close on seventy-five thousand pounds made my eyes water. The Galileo Opere, on the same list, is a mere snip at £12,500.
 There are places in the UK where you can purchase a two or even a three bed-roomed house for seventy-five or so thousand. I’m not saying the Galileo’s not worth it, but I hope it will go, or has gone, to a great university library and not simply a wealthy antiquarian collector. I also trust science students get a look at it – with their white cotton gloves on, of course.
 Still, quite a marvel. There are probably far more costly volumes out there, but this one caught my eye.

The university mail kicked up a couple of items of late, which – depending on the progress of thesis – I might follow up. One is an interesting Italian conference, the other is an invitation to ‘share’ details of any collections we may have squirrelled away. Both will require thought – and time. Not sure I’ve space for thought, and certainly no time. However, I do possess a couple of specialist ‘collections,’ one of which I’ve been debating offloading for some years. It takes up far too much shelf space, being mostly made up of the ‘thick academic tome’ variety of books.

Winter drags on. We haven’t yet glimpsed the northern lights over the hills, but the house has suffered a couple of cold-related damages outside – one of which is a blocked rhone (gutter). I can’t reach the eaves to clear this, and a number of years of neglect have allowed detritus to accumulate. Aided and abetted by crows and jackdaws, who pick the moss off the pantiles to forage for insects beneath.
 What greeted me when I stepped outside was a decorative icefall – a festoon that was probably bad news. The ivy looked pretty, but the cat flap was barred with solid icicles, along with the kitchen Xpelair outlet. Ice also obscured the security light.
  Och, well – hopefully, sooner rather than later, these irritations will be things of the past? (The triumph of hope over experience.)
 It seems our removal plan’s stalled. Maybe this is simply down to winter, but nothing’s happened since December last. I’m beginning to believe we’re fated. But at least the first full week of February has now passed. This means daylight has perceptibly lengthened, and, despite the unrelenting cold, there are occasional glimpses of sun. A few snowdrops are out by the side wall, and some brave daffodil spears have struggled to the surface – harbingers of spring. I might miss having a garden in the future, but not the work it entails. Nor, it must be said, a glowering neighbour who doesn’t believe in ‘wild gardening.’

I’m not mentioning ‘the B-word’. With the UK suspended in stasis, I’m already an exile in my own country.  And it’s not just me. ...

Picture credits: pile of books,  © Radio Times, 26 Jan–1 Feb, 2019, p. 145; kitchen doorstep, © JAS, 2019;

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