In my distant past I read books. By this I mean I preferred hardcover books to paperback, and I shunned those who purchased the first electronic reading devices as though they had a serious and contagious illness to which I was vehemently determined not to succumb. As I said this was my distant past.
For the first time in too many years, two weeks ago while pondering the beautifully leather bound classics my wife inherited from her father at his recent passing, I determined to pluck one from the shelf and read it. I did this as much to honor the man who willed us these books, as to simply read an actual book. Much of my reading over the last 15 years or so has been using my Kindle reader on my mobile devices. So yes, I did succumb to the evil electronic readers available today.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the pages of a book never read, a book which had been printed and bound, and boxed and shipped, then put on a shelf to live out its days, unread. Instantly I was greeted with the fragrant musky scent of old paper and leather. My mind raced back to former days and the joy of buying that hardcover book and breaking it in, before ever reading a word. I did this now with a leather bound copy of Treasure Island, originally titled The Sea Cook A Story for Boys, first published in 1883.
My copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book was printed and published in 1975 as a limited edition by the Franklin Library, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania. It includes copies of the original illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and used by permission from Charles Scribner’s Sons. From first to last these 305 pages of story kept me captivated for days. I highly recommend this book, however, the point is that it served as a bridge for me. A bridge back to the joys of reading an actual book you can hold in your hands.
Is the story less rich or less enticing when read electronically? No. Does the meaning and moral of the story diminish in anyway when read electronically? No. But that is not my point. It probably won’t change my lifestyle of using my mobile devices to read a book when I’m out to lunch without my wife, or when I’m on vacation, or at any other time when it is necessary or convenient to do so. The Bridge part is that I’m now going somewhere. I’m going back in time to that place where one of the best parts of my day was to sit down with a good book and read.
Everyone has good intentions. I do too, having the intention to read more than just one of these leather bound classical works. I’m not sure I can do it in my lifetime, for while there only 88 of these beautiful and colorful books, they include works and titles that are very heady reads.
The Tragedies of Sophocles, Political Writings by John Stuart Mill, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Thucydides – The Peloponneisan War, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Pensees by Blaise Pascal, and the Trail by Franz Kafka.
It might take me a year or two to get through just these 8 books and there are 80 more of the same vein, all classical works in their own right. So I may have good intentions to read all 88 before I die, and while it remains a noble crown to achieve should I do it, I’m 68 years old in a couple of days, so it seems a daunting endeavor.
So there before is The Bridge. I would never have to purchase another book in my lifetime to fill my mind with thoughts above my own, more brilliant than my own, more entertaining than my own. It is a bridge which I’ve set my foot upon and I dare not turn back. I wonder if I’ll make it all the way across…