Books lost, books retained

This evening I was chagrined to discover that I cannot find anywhere my copy of Blanchard’s translation of Eznik of Kolb, On God.  I have relatively few translations in paper form, but I certainly had that.  I remember a small green hardback.  It was quite useless to me, frankly, although finely made, and it just occupied space, and I never thought that I would need it again.  But I have a faint memory of taking it to Oxfam, or somewhere like that.  Now I could use it; and it is not here.

Perhaps tomorrow I shall go to the shop where I might – must – have donated it, and see if I can buy it back!!  It cannot have found many customers.

I am a fortunate man, tho.  This is only the third book that I have disposed of, and regretted later.

One of the others was the copy of The Four Loves by C.S.Lewis that I had at college.  I got rid of it, in favour of a newer copy, because it was not uniform with my other Lewisiana.  But memory is a funny thing, and I can still see the cover of the original in my mind.

The other book that I lost was a first edition of G.K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse, in the green cloth with gilt inlay.  It was probably a first impression, as I once saw a similar edition, but rather thinner.  I still have a smaller, later reprint; but I first read the work in the first edition and again, I miss the physical pages.  Why I got rid of it I do not know.

I have got rid of many books in my time, and we must all do this.  If you do not have a process to get rid of books, then you will find yourself living in a book warehouse, surrounded by books which you have no intention of ever reading again.  Meanwhile your few favourites are hard to find, lost somewhere amidst all the dreck.

Books can be disposed of for many reasons.  I get rid of books that I know that I will never read or use again.  Why store them?  These form the overwhelming majority, mostly novels.  I also get rid of books that I buy and then find that I dislike – more of a peril in these days of Amazon than it once was.  Finally I get rid of books that seem to me unwholesome, obscene, or otherwise liable to influence my mind in ways that are not positive, pure, or likely to make me happy.  It’s easy enough to get muck in your head; the difficulty is to get it out again.

Even with all this, I have more books than my bookshelves will comfortably hold.

And what do we do with “dead books”; books that once were the light of our lives, and which we read and reread?  Books that helped make us who were are; but which we have read too many times, and are now “dead” to us.  I’m thinking of overfamiliar works, perhaps childhood favourites, or books that we are attached to for what they once meant.  They all take up space, and only a fool would cut them off.  To lose them is to lose part of who you are and have been.  I have quite a number of these, and no answer.

Books … a blessed company and a curse when they become too numerous!


6 thoughts on “Books lost, books retained

  1. The Dutch writer, Godfried Bomans, has a little essay where he urges the reader to note that, in fact, when you make your way around the house, you tend to follow paths – well, the spaces between those paths could be used to stack books…

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