“…you can’t have too many copies of a minor classic, I always say. (What do you always say?),” asks a fellow trencherman of print, and I always say it’s tough to resist a book you love and want to keep handy in multiple copies to share with appropriate readers. The same sometimes-recovering book glutton writes, “I’m not, that is to say, in the least sentimental about books,” but I am, and sentimental in two specific instances. I embarrassingly over-value books I’ve owned for a long time, mostly because they come equipped with appendices of memory and association you can’t buy at Amazon.com – my Bible, for instance, dated in my mother’s hand Sept. 25, 1960, and the copy of Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey I bought forty-three years ago. My second and more guilt-inducing concession to sentiment is manifested in purchasing more than one edition of favorite books – Boswell’s Life of Johnson, several Liebling titles, The Last Puritan, Lamb’s essays and letters, The Anatomy of Melancholy, and so on.
Except for a few of the recent acquisitions – the returns aren’t in yet – every book I own is one I might read, reread or consult. Who could resist Michael Faraday's Mental Exercises: An Artisan Essay-Circle in Regency London, The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz or Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman? And I’m overdue to reread Shirley Letwin’s The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct. Not to mention The Spoils of Poynton and Fairfield Porter’s Art in its Own Terms: Selected Criticism 1935-1975, and so on.