The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Illustrated Book...with a difference

This book caught my wife's eye because of my love of music. Imagine our surprise to discover that the rather sentimental prose was accompanied not by distinctly average engravings, as first appeared to be the case, but by hundreds of incredibly fine HAND DRAWN illustrations, put directly onto the page of this bound book.

By whom? The author? Someone who loved the book so much they couldn't resist? Perhaps a lover of the author?

The romantic possibilities are endless. For this reason I cherish the book. Someone must have loved it so much to have wanted to create the best drawings they could muster, and in abundance. There are over a hundred of them. I can think of very few people who, in our digital age, would bother to see something like this through. It makes the book an exceptionally personal and intimate item, as in a way all books can be. It is not a great book nor one I read from often. Rather, it is a unique and curious object that I leaf through and wonder about from time to time. I think the idiosyncraties of the published form are endlessly fascinating, and the stories they further create in my mind are valuable and cherished.
The words within are all linked to music by Mendelsohn, Verdi, Wagner and other Romantic composers. Extracts from their music is quoted throughout, and the books has sections called "largo" and "allegro".

The book is copyrighted 1898 and produced by the Knickerbocker Press New York. This is not a first edition but one of many reprints. And yet, with these many drawings it is surely unique!


  1. That is the most amazing find ever. Just a pity they never thought to leave a name or dedication, though maybe the mystery makes it more enchanting.

  2. What a charming book to own. What a good find!

  3. How amazing! And how lucky the book ended up in the hands of book lovers.