A Book By Its Cover


There is something about books of a certain period that I find special. This book cover is for a novel from my grandmother’s youth though not owned by her. I bought it in a junk shop some twenty years ago. It is from that time when a book was special. All books. Before paperbacks. I have a collection of books that belonged to my grandmother. Often given to her by her father, inscribed on the flyleaf with a message and expressions of affection. Dated from the 1890s. These books were made to be cherished. Read and re-read and kept for a life time. Passed on from generation to generation. Therefore the covers are an expression of the reverence held for these containers of our imaginings. The paper though yellows and becomes brittle. Spines crack, pages loosen. And there is the smell. Old paper and dust. It sets off memories of secondhand bookshops and the marvelous experience of browsing. Writing this I am nostalgic for Hay-on-Wye and the strange pleasure of more books than it is possible to understand gathered in one small town. So. One old book, a trigger for thoughts streaming off to all points of the compass.

Andrew Walton / The Rowley Gallery

Editor’s note: Mention of inscriptions and expressions of affection reminds me of a blog devoted to Book Dedications.

Frames of reference