The Bag Lady of Reference Books: When Covers Fall Off Books

Our English dictionary no longer has a cover.

In times of crisis, I get out my reference books.  There’s always something I want to look up. 

The problem is, I use them a great deal.   Last week the binding of my Greek dictionary snapped when I was desperately looking up an archaic form of an irregular verb.  The roughness with which I attacked the pages knocked the cover right off.  And that, I thought, is why I’d better ditch Sophocles’s Philoctetes for The Odyssey–though I did find the weird verbs, so I should stick to Philoctetes, more appropriate for our time. (Epic is simpler than tragedy:  I am reviving my Greek in honor of coronavirus lockdown.  It’s been five years… )

I asked Mr. Nemo,  “Can you tape this back on?”

“There’s nothing to tape it to.”

“Bummer,” I said.  I like to use old slang I thought silly when it was current.  I started using it recently–a response to Covid-19, I suppose.  I am often “freaked out,”  everything is a “bummer,”  and I am “into” Tylenol and vitamins.  If it weren’t for lockdown, you’d think you were in a  novella where everyone wore platform shoes, read Vonnegut, and listened to Frank Zappa.  

This edition of Horace is held together with tape.

Mr. Nemo got out the super glue, which is a good temporary fix.  At our house, we have trouble keeping the covers on our reference books and, for some reason, poetry books. Part of the problem may be that I carry them in shopping bags from room to room

 The books began to lose their covers in the 1990s, when our most charming cat clawed off the cover of a Webster’s (English) dictionary. She was so sweet we couldn’t be mad.  The covers of our Greek and Latin grammars fell apart on their own; they are bound with scotch tape.  An old edition of Wheelock is held together with duct tape.  

This is not a serious problem, of course.  The pandemic is a serious problem–people are sick, people are dying. 

I’m lucky to have reference books.  Who knows when the libraries will open?

 Some days are better than others.  Hope you’re keeping well.

2 thoughts on “The Bag Lady of Reference Books: When Covers Fall Off Books”

  1. I am rereading a copy of Claire Ridgway’s “George Boleyn”, a grand book but it was never available in hardback, so the perfect binding paperback is disintegrating as I read. I have a leather bound Shakespeare, that I was given when I was 10 to, (now seventy three) and it was published in the 1880s. The front covering is beginning to detach. I know a book binder in Exeter, just 20 miles away, so hopefully he’ll repair it when we are allowed to travel. So I appreciate how maddening it is to have an essential reference book disintegrating. At least here in the UK we an order books on line. My preferred local bookshop is, of course, shut for the duration. Hoping you are keeping safe and well, and thanking you for your blog updates.

    Clare

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    1. Oh, it so disappointing when this happens. That leather Shakespeare must be a gem, and you’re lucky you can get it rebound, if not quite now. Why can’t our books last a lifetime? Or several lifetimes? No one told us that one day our books would break apart, fade, or become slightly foxed.

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