There’s a book I have that I bought for pennies at a giant second-hand book sale a few years ago. It’s one of my favorite books, but only for its antiquity. And I don’t mean it’s rare and pristine and I have it stored in a glass case somewhere. It just feeds into the nostalgia I have for bygone eras that I never even knew in the first place.
It’s a massive book written for women in 1904 all about the proper way to run a household. There are lessons on how to manage servants, detailing to duties of each, instructions on how much allowance one’s husband should give her per week depending on the size of the family and apartment. Ideas for decorating—should you want a green bedroom you really must follow Mrs. _____ (I can’t recall the author’s name) instructions. Pages and pages of menus and recipes are included, as well as proper ways to set tables and host guests. Home remedies for everything from measles to luxurious hair are worded in such strange and wonderful ways that I can’t help but read them aloud in appropriate accents.
The book itself is in okay condition—covers and pages are intact at least—and it has that wonderful really old book smell. Advertisements for other books and novelties are included in the foreword and I can’t help but wish for a little bit that I could travel back to the Victorian years to put all of my new knowledge to good use.
There’s just something about a really old book that draws me in. No matter the subject, I just want to hold it and leaf through the worn pages. There are others I have that I have no real desire to actually read, save for a few sentences here and there, and I realize that it’s probably a silly affection as they do nothing more than take up space, but I also have no intention of getting rid of them. More than aesthetic appeal, I relish in the idea that people, real people, a century or decades ago bought this book when it was brand new and thought nothing of it—it was just a product of their contemporary culture. I’ve already discussed my love of historical fiction, and this connection to the types of people who show up in the novels I read only helps to make them all the more real.
Am I crazy? Do you have any books that you love not for their story or function but for the sole fact that they happen to exist?