Monday, 8 November 2010

Bit of Bonaparte

Yesterday I went round to my Granny’s house. She read my ‘Toad in the Water-butt’ story and said it was ‘very unusual.’ We tried to remind her of the incident it refers to (when one of my father’s friends lost his eye) but she cannot remember the specific details (basically the group of boys in the 50s had a mini cannon used for starting yacht races and they tried to shoot a toad, however it didn’t go to plan and one boy got a led shot in his eye, you can imagine the rest!) Upon asking my dad whether he ever told granny the story he said, ‘Well of course we didn’t!’ So the truth has finally been revealed, 50 years later!

Anywho. My granny has many different books from when she was a child, and from her father and things. She got them all out of her cupboard and said I could take them home if I wished. For now I only took home two books. A crumbling copy of Coleridge’s Poetical and Dramatic Works from the war (note the ‘Message from the front’ pamphlet inside) and The Language and Poetry of Flowers .

Apart from the drool-inducing crumbling spines revealing the art of bookbinding, it’s interesting to consider what’s actually on the spine. Coleridge’s spine is covered with some sort of poem or verse, probably religious. But The Language of Flowers is even more interesting – it’s titled 'Napoleon Bonaparte' and details a wound, possible amputation, and ‘The other [wound?] was on the toe, and had been received at Eckmühl’

Isn’t that absolutely fascinating, the way that the book has been bound using what must be pages from a book of a newspaper? So much information can be gleaned from this. I would love to discover old binding techniques and why such materials have been used – other than to strengthen the spine, I mean. I do the same with my books, using mull, and then a scrap of paper covering the spine (usually some A4 plain paper, and I’d scrawl and obscure message on it, with a date and signature)

So here is a picture of my ‘old’ books that I have started collecting, including Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book and several books on English.

I am dramatically running out of shelf-space.

My granny also has a tatty copy of The Children of the New Forrest. Mum suggested to me that perhaps I should re-bind it as I did with The Green Fairy Book. But I feel a way something as old as that (granny had it when she was four, in 1922) I couldn’t dare touch; I would have to receive suitable training for something so delicate. No, it’s not something I’ll do now. I’ll make my own books and occasionally re-cover cheap charity shop paperbacks. But it’s certainly something I aspire to do.

P.S back home on the Island and I’ve insisted we go on walks every day. Yesterday, Fort Victoria and toadstools. You can imagine tiny fairies perching on top.

P.P.S - This is some darn creative and beautiful book art.