Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Mania for Cloth Bound Collectibles

Title page from Volume I of an Earl's Edition
of the works of Benjamin Disraeli  
When I was eight years old and the family hired movers to help us relocate, my father’s personal library was catalogued and found to number over 5,000 volumes. I inherited a portion of these in 1989, and donated some to Casa Loma, whose library shelves—believe it or not—were filled with wooden replicas. (I discovered this while mounting an exhibit of 20th century wedding gowns at the famous location.) I have carefully stored many of the remaining books, displaying and enjoying them by rotation. 

Recently, feeling the press of post-holiday excess and frightened by an episode of Hoarders, I attempted a purge of my 19th century book collection, but instead, I ended up adding to my library of second, third, and special edition classics. As I reacquainted myself with these cloth-bound beauties—running my fingers through deckled, slightly yellowed pages, and lifting the occasional translucent sheet to gaze at hand-colored illustrations—I fell in love all over again. The marbled endpapers of one volume alone reawakened my passion for such literary treasures.
Alison Hoover Bartlett, author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, (a fabulous read) believes “the allure of any book is in large part sensual.” Indeed, the thingness of books has appealed to collectors long before digital technology threatened to make bound paper obsolete.In a dedicated search for first editions, collectors and bibliomaniacs often overlook later edition classics, but these are often the very books with the most decorative covers, as publishers were often more willing to cover the extra cost of decorative bindings once a particular title had become a sure thing. 
The purge will have to wait. I love books too much not to bring them along with me into my sixties. 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A License to Pick Up Narcotics

I’ve seen my husband through a few surgeries over the past few years, the latest—last Wednesday—being the repair of an inguinal hernia. He’s suffering a slight complication today, which required a new prescription for pain killers.

When I dropped off the script for Tylenol #3's at the pharmacy, I was told that under new regulations I would require two pieces of photo ID in order to pick up the drugs, as they were deemed narcotics. Seems like a good policy; one that is simple enough to comply with, for people who possess the required documents.  

Today I used my passport, but as for fulfilling the second obligation by producing a plastic card that reveals both my photo and my current address, I came up short. It's not like I can show them one of my hard-cover books with the author's photo on the back (although I did try that at the border once).    

My health card is one of the early ones with no identifying photo—there’s that age thing again—so there is no picture of me (pink-haired, behatted or otherwise) to prove my identity. Just the iconic, Canadian, red and white markings and a bunch of numbers. It looks like I’ll have to get a driver’s license, if only for the credentials.

I know. I can hear you screaming, “You don’t have a license?” I do not. Any of you who have heard my husband recount my driving exploits, know why I gave the practice up. I admit to my shortcomings. I was a terrible, inattentive driver, continually thinking of hats or dreaming up fictional plots in my head, while entire legions of angels kept a lookout for my safety.

Once, in the 80’s, I was involved…Strike that, I caused an accident that prompted me to ask the constable, “How many cars did I hit?” She answered, “You only hit one, Dear, but you struck it twice.”  

Tomorrow I’ll bus it to the Motor Vehicle Bureau, or whatever they call it, and tell them I want to apply for a license to pick up narcotics. Do you suppose they’ll take my picture and hand me a card?  

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring

Embossed Edwardian Post Card
I visited the office of a friend yesterday. On her desk was a bouquet of miniature irises she had taken from her mother's garden. Yes, spring has come that early here in Burlington. And isn't it grand.

I have never grown irises, but I was raised by one. My mother, Blanche Iris Jane Thomas Hillyer, went by her second name. She acquired it in an unusual fashion. My grandmother had chosen several names for her daughter, but none of them sat well with the rest of the family.

After numerous arguments, my grandmother settled the matter by calling for a newspaper. "The first female name I come across," she announced, "will become the name of this child." Lucky for Mom, someone named Iris was featured that day.

One of my favourite things to do with Mom in her latter years, was to go through her mother's souvenir postcard album. That's where I found this Edwardian post card (c.1909) with its lovely embossed image of a spring bouquet.

If there are no irises in your garden, I hope this image will help you think of spring.

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