Old Volumes


The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Ed. Thomas H. Johnson, Little, Brown and Co., New York, 1960

Of all the books that fill all the shelves, only one I believe, has to be hard-bound. I mean: must be–as by law. A paperback edition of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson is an affront to…well…many people, really, but certainly its author. I have one of those and it’s an affront to me. The last time I took it down from the shelf, it spilled forth forty pages all over my study floor.

Those were good pages too.

I picked them up and tucked them back in with a shake of the head: Published in the ’60’s, what did you expect? Who did this thing? Oh! Et tu, Little, Brown. I am certain that, if she had been there with me, she would have been shaking her head as well:

“What possessed you to purchase such a thing?”

“A college budget. C’mon!”

No, for Emily Dickinson, let it be hard-bound. In fact, ‘vellum’ would be nice; with a certain fragrance of ‘must’; and pages gracefully yellowed. For…

“A precious–mouldering pleasure–’tis–

To meet an Antique Book–

In just the dress His Century wore–

A privilege–I think…

…His presence is enchantment–

You beg him not to go–

Old volumes shake their Vellum Heads

And tantalize us so.”

#371



Categories: Books and Literature

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