New PDF release: On Books and the Housing of Them

By William Ewart Gladstone

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Shall we be buried under them like Tarpeia under the Sabine shields? Shall we renounce them (many will, or will do worse, will keep to the most worthless part of them) in our resentment against their more and more exacting demands? Shall we sell and scatter them? as it is painful to see how often the books of eminent men are ruthlessly, or at least unhappily, dispersed on their decease. Without answering in detail, I shall assume that the book-buyer is a book-lover, that his love is a tenacious, not a transitory love, and that for him the question is how best to keep his books.

The wall-spaces between the projections ought also to be turned to account for shallow bookcases, so far as they are not occupied by windows. If the width of the interval be two feet six, about sixteen inches of this may be given to shallow cases placed against the wall. Economy of space is in my view best attained by fixed shelves. This dictum I will now endeavor to make good. If the shelves are movable, each shelf imposes a dead weight on the structure of the bookcase, without doing anything to support it.

We ought to recollect, with more of a realized conception than we commonly attain to, that a book consists, like a man, from whom it draws its lineage, of a body and a soul. They are not always proportionate to each other. Nay, even the different members of the book-body do not sing, but clash, when bindings of a profuse costliness are imposed, as too often happens in the case of Bibles and books of devotion, upon letter-press which is respectable journeyman's work and nothing more. The men of the Renascence had a truer sense of adaptation; the age of jewelled bindings was also the age of illumination and of the beautiful miniatura, which at an earlier stage meant side or margin art,3 and then, on account of the small portraitures included in it, gradually slid into the modern sense of miniature.

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On Books and the Housing of Them by William Ewart Gladstone

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