Some may claim they do not read and therefore do not own a book – or, they may have a book or two floating around the house – but for lovers of books, for bibliophiles, there is simply no such thing as ‘a book or two’.
In Ex Libris: Confessions Of A Common Reader author Anne Fadiman shares her life-long passion for books in 18 essays that explore her inextricable connection to the written word. She talks about relations (she and her husband only married after they managed to combine book collections); explores the reader’s treatment of books (calling those that underline text, tear pages out or read books until they fall apart – carnal lovers); and theorises about the scarcity of editions (first editions of Alice in Wonderland were eaten by children). A witty, insightful look at one person’s passion for books that spans an eclectic view of their history.
Since early times when humans learned to communicate with symbols , they have sought ways to preserve and disseminate the written word.
In The Book : A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time, Keith Houston follows the path of the 2,000 year old history of universal information technology. Houston looks at the book’s development from cuneiform tablets to today’s paperbacks, presenting a vibrant and rich history of civilisations. This sometimes surprising history is attractively packaged with full-colour illustrations.
Books about books come in many forms, from the text that will inspire the casual reader to academic titles designed for intense study.
The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book edited by Leslie Howsam provides an extensive account of the book’s history and the way humans have viewed it over time. Taking a thematic and chronological approach, the first section of this title considers ‘book’ cultures from ancient inscriptions to e-books. Part two, looks at the relationship of the physical book and it’s content, from early manuscript production to the globalization of publishing, and the introduction of e-books. Part three is largely academic and includes bibliographical, archival and pedagogical strategies for studying books. You can take a look here: Camdridge Companion to the history of the book
Despite the enormous number of books printed over time, there is the view that the history of books can be encapsulated in the choice a select few.
The History of the Book in 100 Books by Roderick Cave & Sara Ayad is one such book. They look at 100 books they believe have played a critical role in the creation and expansion of books that have brought literacy, numeracy, knowledge, and ultimately liberation to many in the world. Themes discussed include ancient times in the East and the West; the Medieval world; print technology and the Information explosion led by Public Libraries. The size of the book may be prohibitive to some (a coffee-table book) and the beginning of the book is far stronger than the end, but the abundant photographs and inclusion of some lesser known titles make it interesting nonetheless.
There are many claims that the e-book has all but destroyed the popularity of the printed book, and that book publishing in Australia is all but dead.
Publishing Means Business: Australian Perspectives by Aaron Mannion, Millicent Weber & Katherine Day shows us how in fact the ‘Australian publishing industry has transformed itself from a colonial outpost of British publishing to a central node in a truly global publishing industry’ (readings.com). The book examines the current state of an unpredictable industry that has seen government cuts, the rise of boutique and e-publishing houses and the flood of international titles into the Australian market. It questions the broader role of publishing in Australia and looks to its future. It includes contributions from academics, writers, publishers and economists, and can be considered an authoritative book on the topic.
Of course if you are the sort of bibliophile I tend to be, the whole point of books is to read them, enjoy them and most likely own them. If book collecting is your thing, there are many websites and many books, devoted to the topic. Rather than go through an apparently, inexhaustible list of guides on the topic, I thought I would leave with a picture – or two…