Books signify human learning and the memories of our great collective experience. The book began as a depository for secrets and wisdom of the world’s religions and governments. Eventually, it was a place where personal art and philosophy was collected at great expense for those who could afford to have scholars copy texts by hand. With the industrial complex building machines to mass produce print it became not only more accessible to print and to write works to be consumed by an ever-increasing literate public. From Dicken’s penny novels to Penguin’s library for the everyman to the daily newspaper, the written word has become an omnipresent force. In the digital age, the word has become cheap and superfluous. What is said is less important than how it is presented as content for companies to attract consumers to their products. While this blog, for instance, has attracted 76, 000 plus viewers from across the world, I doubt more than a few actually take the time to read what is written; the images and search engines are what attract viewers versus readers.
I still like to read. I am not a voracious metro reader who ploughs through multiple bestsellers on a weekly basis. Instead, I aim to read only pivotal books, classics, and texts that relate to technical areas of interest such as photography. Time is of the essence for me, as I lead such a busy life that to spend hours on a book that does not change my paradigm or offer insight into the chambers of the human experience would be a waste. Therefore, the tomes that make up my personal library are a rather specific lot. In fact, the greater majority of my collection is comprised of books printed by the Folio Society.
I began collecting books from Folio in 1997. Their marketing was similar to the CD companies of the day: buy four books and get six free. The idea was to buy their cheaper novels to get their more expensive sets for free. Over the years, what struck me most was that Folio consistently had books that I loved to both read and behold. While I pay anywhere from $50 to $400 per book (limited editions begin at the $350 range and I have four of those on my shelves), I feel that the quality and image plates far surpass any other printing being done for the public. Since I seldom buy more than 10 books a year, the balance is reasonable.
My latest acquisitions include Plutarch’s Lives and Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic. Both sets are beautifully bound, and the subject matter is what interests me these days: classical characters and spiritual transitions. Ever since reading The Story of B during the Christmas holidays, I have become more interested in the human connection to the natural cycles and the aboriginal world view. I am not so naive to believe that I will suddenly become a newagehippygranolaeater, but from my recent experiments spending time in nature and being present while there I have gained much. I am inspired to grow in a connected way to the world around me.
Finally, I am still working on perfecting my pie-baking. My crust still needs a little work, but my berry/rhubarb filling with sarsaparilla and vanilla just kills. Paderno Cookware sent along a knife set to be photographed this week, and I am hoping that a series of shots I took for Base Camp X turn out like I saw them through my lens. With film one never knows the final outcome until the scans are done.
Life remains magical for me this Spring. For the first time in my life I am able to say that I am consistently, irrevocably happy. Despite the daily grind, despite the negativity of people in this big city, I have found a path that provides me joy, love, sustenance, intellectual curiosity and an opportunity for unlimited growth. If such things are the magic that I know them to be, then I would say our magical world is far from being on the decline.