Posted in Essay

THE LOVE FOR (OLD) BOOKS

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Some of my old books. Photo by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

THE LOVE OF (OLD) BOOKS

by

Paula Kuitenbrouwer (Mindful Drawing)

Reblogged here with Paula’s permission. 

A few days ago, I read in a newspaper about a Dutch politician questioning the future existence of libraries. Kindle was mentioned as well as the Internet, so why have libraries? I stopped reading the article because there is only so much flap-doodle one can stomach. One might hope that our politician will start reading T.S. Eliot and stumbles upon Eliot’s quote: ‘The very existence of libraries afford the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man’.

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Imagine a few philistines standing in front of the burning library of Alexandria, in estimate 48 BC, indifferently saying to each other; ‘A well…who cares?’ I care, and that is what I commented at Jamie Dedes’ discussion Times Change on The Writer by Day.

You could object and point out that we can store all books digitally, something that wasn’t possible in ancient times. That isn’t a very convincing argument to me, because at ancient and medieval times copies were produced too, in order to preserve knowledge and to make knowledge widely available. The problem, to me, is that digital copies are clean and sterile presentations. They do not enchant, hold no smell, sensation nor touchable illustrations. Many of us need to experience these qualities hands-on.

I also love painting old books. Books offer a wonderful theme, showing off a collection that represents a specific time, a layer of the society, telling a story about the writer, reader, and publisher.

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Jan Davidz de Heem (1606-1683/84), Still-life with Books

A painting like this communicates ‘Look that my books’, and ‘Look what I read and store in my head’. See the ink-pot and feather-pen, stating; ‘I write too’ or ‘I’m a scholar’.

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Detail oil painting Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Do you also like the little extra treasures old books sometimes offer? They can be underlined sentences that ones held significant meaning to the former owner of the book. Or they can be a handwritten old name on a pretty Ex Libris.

A few year ago I bought an old book. At home a small calendar of my year of birth dropped out (now how amazing is that?), showing a year long list of -to my generation- forgotten saints as well as a moon calendar.

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The Saint and Moon Calendar of my birth-year.

Last, have a look at this beauty: an old Dutch book on Percival, with the name of the former owner in the right upper corner in ink. The Art-Nouveau illustration, in relief gold, offers enough reason to buy the book. There is even a treat inside: a small, printed prayer card, showing St. Martin by Michelina da Besozzo, 1410.

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Will we ever enjoy a relief print, golden illustration on a Kindle? If we ‘open’ our E-reader, will we ever experience a pleasurable surprise of a little wink or glimpse back in time, falling out? I’m afraid not. Books provide us with all sort of inspiration; we therefore need old books, stored in libraries (and available in second hand bookshops).

© 2012, essay/photos/artwork, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, All rights reserved

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