In case you didn’t know, I am an old man. Not physically (I’m 24), but attitudinally speaking I am an antique. My old age is most evident when it comes to technology (read a previous rant here). I am not the biggest fan of newfangled electronic devices. That said, I am beginning to come around. I recently upgraded to a smart phone and I even admire the utility of the iPad.
One device I have not warmed up to is the Amazon Kindle. I know, I know– it can hold a million books. It has a built-in dictionary. It has access to free classic books. It can download magazines. It is so much more convenient than lugging around a stack of hardbacks.
What’s my problem with the Kindle? The problem isn’t so much what’s wrong with the Kindle, but what is right with books. The Kindle doesn’t have the old book smell. The Kindle doesn’t give you the satisfaction of closing the cover when you finally get through all of those pages. Most of all, the Kindle doesn’t come with a story of its own.
Every book has two stories to tell. The first is the most obvious– the story written on the pages. The second story is the story of the book itself, what journey it took to land in a particular reader’s hands. The book pictured above is the perfect example. This is a copy of “Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Third Edition)” by Richard Chenevix Trench, published in 1850. This book came to me from my Grandma, as one book in a large box full. She in turn had been given them by the widow of a long-time family friend. This family friend was a pastor, which explains the obscure volume of Biblical commentary. How it came to the pastor, I do not know.
What I do know is that a Mr. Andrew of Glasgow, Scotland acquired this book in September 1920. I know this because Mr. Andrew recorded his acquisition on the flyleaf. What a story! This book journeyed from Glasgow, Scotland in the 1920’s to Canadian, Texas in the 1990’s to Dallas, Texas in the 2000’s. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pictured to the left is the inside cover. It features two remarkable elements– a seal and an inscription. The seal (close-up here) reads “Sig[illum] universitatis doctorum magistrorum et scolarium Sanctee Andree.” Translated that is “Seal of the doctors, masters, and scholars of the University of Saint Andrew.” This is the seal of St. Andrews University in Scotland. As in the oldest university in Scotland. The image of the seal is incredible. The inscription is even better. It reads “Awarded as a prize to Mr. Robert Bell for a valuable essay on the reasonableness and utility of confessions of the faith by Geo. Buist, Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Theology, St. Mary’s College, 25th March 1857.” (Close-up here) A bit of internet research has informed me that George Buist was born in 1805 and died in 1860. In addition to being a well-respected professor, Buist served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1848 and was consulted by Parliament numerous times on matters related to education. Robert Bell studied Greek, Latin, and Humanities at St. Andrews before continuing his studies in theology. George Buist had this book on his bookshelf. Robert Bell earned it by a well-written essay in 1857. Mr. Andrew got his hands on it in 1920. Now it is part of my library.
When the Kindle can offer a pedigree like that, I might consider making the purchase.
Amy Hunt said:
I agree completely. Of course, that is why I have a library of somewhere between one and two thousand books. Each of these books is precious to me . . . not just because they look good on the shelves of my private library, and not just because they are an eclectic blend of titles, and not just because they have that wonderfully musty “old book smell” but also because many of them came to me from my Grandmother and my husband’s grandmother and my own adventures in life. These will be a legacy that I can leave to MY children and/or grandchildren who will, I pray, come to enjoy them for all the reasons that I do.