Do I collect books? No, but I have a lot of books. And I do own four copies of each of the Brontës’ seven novels, bought for the cover art.
I usually prefer paperbacks. They’re light and portable, and somehow feel more daring. I love lounging on the sofa and reading a nearly weightless paperback.
But lately I’ve switched to hardcovers. Have I stopped lounging? No. Wait for it… I AM ALLERGIC TO PAPERBACKS. And I wonder: should this be happening outside an underground comic book?
Much to my chagrin, a strong bleach-based spray cleanser gave me a case of contact dermatitis. And that’s why I was reading Vanity Fair in a Penguin hardcover, because my the paper in the old paperback is too acidic.
The rash has cleared up. It’s enough to make me a collector of hardcovers, though.
I do enjoy other people’s book collections, even though I’m not a collector. In the latest issue of the TLS, Nicholas Murray writes about collecting the original World’s Classics hardcover series. He says these tiny books were “launched in 1901 by Grant Richards and bought by Henry Frowde of Oxford University Press in 1905. It ran until the mid-1970s, publishing well over 600 titles. The name survives in OUP’s current paperback library of classic editions, originally ‘World’s Classics’ and renamed Oxford World’s Classics in 1998.”
I have the World’s Classics hardcover edition of George Moore’s Esther Waters. I found it years ago at a used bookstore.
I certainly would like that edition of Katherine Mansfield! But I already HAVE a Katherine Mansfield. (You can buy it for about $10 on Etsy..)