Books—and books


This book will open flat and stay open.

Such is the avowal of a press that offers single reprints, and it is followed by an explanation of how they use traditional methods of binding.

So presumably it will not be like this:

Here we have a book that does not open flat, and if you stop holding the pages down for an instant, they spring up and revert to this state, so you instantly lose your place. Holding the pages down tightly becomes wearisome as you try to read: and browsing the book, or using the indexes, in any pleasurable way is not an option.

It was received as a Christmas gift in 2011. The delight on its reception turned to disappointment, and it has rested on the shelves without being looked at very often. It is a book produced to the most basic standard, not even in the same league as the 2012 Good Food Guide, received at the same time.

This is puzzling, because it contains a beautiful collection of Jane Austen’s letters, produced with loving and scholarly research, arranged in chronological order and with extensive notes: a book to cherish, if only it were readable.

Here it is again, and in front of it, by contrast, a more recent book, published, printed and bound in the United States of America:

This nearer book is the new translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson (highly recommended); and the Norton Press have given it a printing that its quality deserves. It is skilfully bound, on fine paper, with a font and layout that say, Read me; take your time; browse me if you wish; use the index; enjoy a first-rate work beautifully produced. I am a book to keep and cherish.