“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books,” – C.S. Lewis
This idea is truer now than when C.S. Lewis wrote it in 1944. Leaving aside the new habits developed by reading electronic books, this notion of speed and the newest, latest thing is reflected in how the publishing world now markets its books, constantly churning out new titles by tired old writers, or how literary reviews seek to highlight on the newest freshest voices. Books mass produced these days are often produced as throwaways, and after their 30 (or so) days of fame is up, their covers are ripped off to be sent for a credit from the distributor while the body of the book is pulped and recycled. I imagine every true booklover has just shuddered over that image. I actually do that exact thing as part of my part-time job once a week. At first it was torture. Now I have become jaded… rip.
To counter this pernicious and evil influence on books and book reading I have shelves and shelves of beloved books, and many of them are vintage and rare. I savor the pleasure of turning their tangible leaves, my fingers brushing over the page to feel the imprint of the letterpress words, and inhaling that wonderful ineffable scent of the old book. Not only are their physical forms to be desired and appreciated, from the wonderful designs on their cloth board covers to the texture of the rag papers used, but inside those pages are wonderful words, stories, and glimpses into previous lives.
Times change. Our thinking about various topics change with the times, sometimes for better, but often for worse. Old books can remind us of both the good and the bad. I particularly savor the way time passes in old novels, so much more slowly, with more care to even the most ordinary of actions. Reading only new books, or exposing ourselves to only the latest in ideas and technology can actually stultify us, and bind us to one way of viewing the world.
“The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books,” – C.S. Lewis