I am an unashamed e-reader – of fiction – but it wasn’t always the case, and even now I prefer my non-fiction paper-based. I’ve always loved books, the sense of information encapsulated ready to hand, and even as a child I knew I wanted a ‘library’, holding my books among others.
Actually I wanted a castle, or at least a castellated house, because such wonderful buildings always had libraries. I coveted Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, situated near Melrose. We had visited during a family holiday and I’d found its huge library and Scott's study awe-inspiring. At that time his writing room held not only books on two levels but a whole array of fascinating collected artefacts. I had a fossil; I’d made my start.
Dreams of a castle, even a castellated house, faded into obscurity – mature minds tend to consider the enormity of heating bills and the never-ending dusting – but from the moment I had a place to call my own I collected books. And kept collecting them when funds allowed. After all, if I passed up the chance to buy that volume on the history of nursery rhymes (Cinema Bookshop, Hay on Wye, long before any Literature Festival) where would I be when I needed the information it contained? And did you know that Jack and Jill weren’t called that when they originally went up the hill, ostensibly for water?
But I digress, just as my widening collection did, and my ill-fated card-based catalogue. Even the shelving system based on a historical timeline fell foul of lack of shelving. Stacks ensued; focus shifted.
This summer’s re-lacquering of the wooden floors has meant the stacks have been moved, the bookcases unloaded. As the books are cleaned to be rearranged in loose order forgotten gems spring unbidden: Monastic Britain (with maps!), Life In The Age Of Chivalry, Britain Before The Norman Conquest (more maps)... just the information I need to help with book 3 of the Torc of Moonlight trilogy.
Finding old friends is a wonderful moment, each eager to impart anew its wonders. I’ve set them, and others, aside. I’ll never get the rest cleaned and replaced if I start reading.
Which ‘old friends’ have you recently become reacquainted with? What constitutes your library?