Within Arms Reach….

Just to the right of my desk is my “theatre” book collection. So, I take down the closest title to blog about today:

The Plays of Emile Verhaeren
(the full text of this book is now available for free on the Internet Archive…also at ebooks)

Contents:

The Dawn

The Cloister

Philip II

Helen of Sparta — a note preceding the play states “Helene de Sparta was published by the Nouvelle Revue Francaise in Paris in 1912. The play was produced at the Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, on May 4th of the same year, the scenery and dresses being designed by Bakst.

Though you can read this work for free online, it’s just not the same as holding this heavy little edition, a former holding of the “Wilmington Public Library,” with its distressed and stained board covers, worn smooth from so many years of fingers laced around its spine and chips to the top and side edges from years of use. The call numbers written at the base of the spine have faded. But the book stands strong, proud, binding tight and pages barely yellowed. I have newer editions of books nearly crumbling to dust. There is so much integrity in old books….i miss that when I hold hardcovers of new books (which feel light, even if they’re a thousand pages). This edition was printed in Great Britain by Chiswick Press: Charles Whittingham and Co. 1916.

I wonder how many years it sat wedged between other titles, ignored and forgotten …how many people actually took it home? How it came to end up at the used book shop where I purchased it for $5? I love books with inscriptions and notes written in them…with stamps and other telling signs of previous owners. This book has only the public library stamps and so I assume it lived there until they discarded it. I had never heard of the author, have yet to read the plays, but the book itself seduced me. For $5, I would have bought it no matter the contents of the actual text.

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