Epiphany has come and gone

Epiphany has come and gone
Posted by Ralph Jacobowitz

Epiphany has come and gone with no celebration either in the office or at home. I guess you could say we had anti-celebrations. In the office the Xmas decorations have come down, been packed away and put into storage. Well, almost. The Outlet car wouldn’t hold all of them, so they’re going to storage later. At home the small, potted pine tree that served as our Xmas tree has been stripped of its baubles and returned to its home in the back garden, where it’s much happier than it was in the kitchen during the holidays; it began to shed lots of needles. I bought the pine tree at my boyfriend’s request some years ago and it moved with me to my, and its, new home since his death two and a half years ago. 

Even though I’m back at work and the festive season is over, I’m in a good mood. Let me pass on another recommendation. Another book that I’m reading, a Xmas gift from one of my house mates, is Andrew Brown’s A Brief History of Encyclopedias. Its considerable research and learning are cloaked in crystalline prose (unlike mine). The book is part of Hesperus’ Brief History series; Andrew Brown has also written A Brief History of Biographies for them. 

Hesperus Books publishes both these as well as some of Andrew Brown’s translations. There are several volumes in the house of his translations. Hesperus produce gorgeous books. They remind me of the beautiful publications of North Point Press, which didn’t survive as an independent imprint and seems now to be a part of Farrar Straus & Giroux. Each Hesperus volume is a sensual experience to hold and to read. Even though the volumes are paperbacks the covers are folded back to create jacket flaps. The compact size is very pleasing, page margins are generously proportioned, the paper is good and the type is clean. The one thing missing is information about the actual printing: who printed the book and the typeface. 

It would be a shame if printed books disappeared, all undone by electronic publishing. This desire for physical, actual printed books is possibly nostalgic on my part. I’m sure that when printed books began to circulate, some people complained about the loss of manuscripts to a new barbarism and vulgarity. 

I’m not quite such a Luddite. I enjoy my iPad and being able to call up music scores from IMSLP. I gladly read stuff on the iPad, but some books are irreplaceable. There is a joy to seeing them on the shelf—the multicoloured spines, the obvious series and sets. And browsing in a book is quite different from clicking a link on the net. I’ll admit to being slow when vinyl LPs changed to CDs. I’m still struggling with download versus disc. Not all change is progress and dedication to continuous improvement has its drawbacks. I probably won’t change my OS from Snow Leopard to Maverick—at least not right now.

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