Monday 11 July 2011
Opening old books
During the summer the beautiful Northumbrian shop Re have had an installation on the interiors floor at Liberty. One quiet and colder than it should have been evening I wandered over to my favourite shop looking for peace rather than shopping and decided to look at the new area. They had lots of great found objects, properly old things not items that had been artfully distressed for no reason.
In short they had a great deal to admire but what I loved most was looking through the old horticultural books. I am very far from an expert on flowers, I like the way they look and smell very much of course but I have no idea of their classical names, when they should bloom, what their names might mean and so on, still I find that people do know all these things (especially in this day and age) really extremely good.
I came away with two gifts to myself which you can see above (wrapped might I say with the same love and care he might have reserved for an antique mirror worth vastly more by the charming gentleman who worked in the furniture department). The first is of course fascinating to me because it's about scents and gardens and the second because it is all about roses, which I actually know very little about but adore completely anyhow.
Both look very pretty on my shelf, they look like the kind of book an interior decorator might put there. What is best about them though is what they say. The way of writing, the care and the love the two men have for these very feminine subjects they've chosen to write about, the time they've take to write, the old fashioned language and old fashioned way of coming to the point they use- it's all like a lullaby in a book.
We read old novels all the time don't we but I certainly very rarely read other old books and they are just as lovely- perhaps lovelier. As a historian they are certainly more interesting in many ways than novels, we use novels to time travel but we are so used to do that I'm not sure we always do. These two books genuinely transport me to a house that wasn't centrally heated, with a walled vegetable garden and a proper garden beyond perhaps. To a writer sitting at a very old wooden desk writing long hand next to a type writer, with a pile of books and cuttings of flowers, perhaps in failing light that isn't helped too quickly by electricity.
Next time you are looking around charity shops, or bric a brac shops, pick up the old factual books, they are like deep pile blankets of book joy.