Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving

The Friendship of Books

on August 15, 2014

SAM_0107I have a dear friend wSAM_0485ho’s gone minimalist, who has de-cluttered and de-owned almost everything she had. Including books. I find the general concept admirable and it’s working just fine for her. And I can understand minimizing everything you own—with the exception of one thing: BOOKS. Without my books I’d be a lost soul.

A room without books is a body without a soul.——-Cicero
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.——-Cicero

Me and Cicero. We think alike. Would probably have been pretty good friends had we been able to time travel and visit each other’s centuries—–and libraries. I’d like to think of him visiting my library, Abbey the Book Barn more than formal library, but I can imagine him reading my shelves and then gazing out the double windows to view my garden. And though he’d probably think the colorful Bottle Tree a bit arcane, I think he’d smile at the riotous morning glories climbing twin trellises and butterflies dancing among the impatiens, and goldfinches bobbing up and down on the wild yellow strawflowers. I think he’d wonder at the paperbacks—“Are these real books? Without top edge gilt and tooled leather? hmmmmmmm. Too modern for me,” I can hear him say. And I’d be quick to agree. But a poor scholar’s got to do the best she can with what’s available in her century…and affordable to her pocketbook! He would appreciate, I think, my prized 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica set, and some of the beautifully bound old books for which I’m guardian, but I believe fundamentally we’d be of the same mindset—on the same page as it were: that there’s nothing more deeply comforting and satisfying than sitting in a comfortable chair, under good lighting, feet propped up….with a good book in hand.

All this in mind, I’ve decided to gather together some the book quotes I’ve collected over the years, primarily for my own old-fashioned Commonplace Book of favorite quotations and sayings. And to share them with you today, Gentle Reader. I hope you’ll find them the same inspirational treasures I have. And I hope they’ll keep you holding real books in hand, for, as Churchill said, “If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances.”

** ** ** ** **

“…for it is said to be the mark of a gentleman that he have a well-stocked library and a speaking acquaintance with some good books.” Temple Scott, 1911.

“The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever, therefore, acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth,of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a Lover of Books.” Richard De Bury, Philobiblon, 1344. Translation of 1473.

“But I sit here with no company but books and some bright-faced friends upon the wall, musing upon things past and things to come; reading a little, falling off into a reverie, waking to look out on the ever charming beauty of the landscape, dipping again into some dainty honeycomb of literature, wandering from author to author, to catch the echoes which fly from book to book, and by silent suggestions or similarities connect the widely-separated men in time and nature closely together. All minds in the world’s past history find their focal point in a library….All the world is around me. All that ever stirred human hearts, or fired the imagination, is harmlessly here. My library shelves are the avenues of time. Cities and empires are put into a corner. Ages have wrought, generations grown, and all the blossoms are cast down here. It is the garden of immortal fruits, without dog or dragon.” Gilbert de Porre, LETTERS.

“Here is the best solitary company in the world, and in this particular chiefly excelling any other, that in my study I am sure to converse with none but wise men; but abroad it is impossible for me to avoid the society of fools.” Sir William Waller. Divine Meditations: Meditation upon the Contentment I have in my Books and Study.

“When I am reading a book, whether wise or silly, it seems to be alive and talking to me.” Jonathan Swift. Thoughts on Various Subjects.

“Sitting last winter among my books, and walled round with all the comfort and protection which they and my fire-side could afford me,—to wit, a table of high-piled books at my back, my writing desk on one side of me, some shelves on the other, and the feeling of the warm fire at my feet,—I began to consider how I loved the authors of those books; how I loved them too, not only for the imaginative pleasures they afforded me, but for their making me love the very books themselves, and delight to be in contact with them….I entrench myself in my books, equally against sorrow and the weather.” Leigh Hunt. The Literary Examiner: My Books.

“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select the more enjoyable….” A. Bronson Alcott. Tablets: Books.

“In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past.” Alexander Smith. Dreamthorp: Books and Gardens.

“Books are our household gods; and we cannot prize them too highly. They are the only gods in all the Mythologies that are ever beautiful and unchangeable; for they betray no man, and love their lovers….” January Searle. The Choice of Books.

SO, Gentle Reader, them’s some of my more trenchant quotations on or about books and why I hold them dearer than all my other possessions; why, too, as my good husband Hollis will be quick to tell you, “Anne belongs to the Book-A-Day Club.” Guilty as charged. Happily guilty as charged!


One response to “The Friendship of Books

  1. JEAN OHMSEN says:

    How I did enjoy this. Like you I could not enjoy life without my books. I also belong to the Book of the Day club. I’m sure I do not read the great books that you read, but the books I read I enjoy to the fullest. I went to Fiction Addiction today and bought two more. They will be having that really big book sale this Sat. and Sun at McAlister Square. Not sure if I will go but Jack is going. I’m out of shelf space even after giving 75 books to Friends of the Library. Gotta run, but your post on Friendship of Books was beautiful. Love, Jean

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