Friday, April 27, 2007

I Love This Book #1


My friends at The Old Stile Press have an occasional series on their blog titled, 'How I wish this book were one of ours', highlighting inspiring and interesting books of all sorts. So, having no shame whatsoever, I'm nicking the idea (sorry N.) because every now and again a book crosses my path - sadly often not for long - and I gasp at it and sniff (yes sniff) and stroke it, and wonder at quite what the attraction is.

I hope in this first of my occasional series, the attraction is obvious. But I should say that for me, books like this have a particular resonance. The books I was most fascinated by as a kid were exactly these kinds of natural history books: birds, beetles, minerals and so on... which categorised and listed and illustrated things. Sadly, none of the ones I had available were quite of this standard but still... these kinds of natural history books and field guides came just before atlases, which I was reminded of by a post recently on one of my favourite design and typography blogs because we had that atlas at home. And a little behind those in the 'fascinating' for a young mind stakes, came my mum and dad's old school textbooks, biology and chemistry in particular which, at the age of 13 or so I actually read from cover to cover!

So, to the matter in hand. Cast your eyes in wonder over A Systematic Arrangement of British Plants with an easy introduction to the study of botany by a chap with the perhaps botanically unfortunate name of William Withering. This is the 4th edition, published in London in 1801 with the most amazing copperplate engravings for illustrations. There's something about the quality of this kind of print which I feel always creates a much more direct sense of 'something drawn' than other forms of engraving. These four volumes have the original boards but have been professionally rebacked making four extremely nice and solid books. (psst... also currently on sale on ebay here till tomorrow).

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