Monday, 16 May 2011

Magpie Tales #66 The Library

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid at Willow Manor who organises and hosts this meme. Each week she provides a photographic prompt to encourage writing in any genre. To read more Magpies please click here.

Image copyright Tess Kincaid
She couldn’t read very well – she was only four - but she had loved the books in her grandfather’s study. Her grandfather had sets of books bound in blue and red and green leather with golden words on their spines and covers. Those were beautiful but the ones she liked best were the poetry books and the children’s stories. They were leather-bound, too, but the front covers were brightly coloured, either with pictures or intricate patterns.

She would take one from the shelf and finger the leather and the tooling. She liked the gilt-dusted fore-edges of the pages that made the closed book look like a gold bar. Carefully, she would open the cover and pause at the transparent tissue protecting the frontispiece. This was a moment of magic, seeing the illustration for the first time as though through light mist.Turning the thin paper over revealed the colours and details of the image and then her exploration would continue. Pages of beautiful fonts interspersed with colour plates and line drawings carried her through the book, allowing her to understand something of the tale. Often her grandfather would read a story to her and she would marvel and wonder if she would ever be able to decipher the text as he did. He would point to words he thought she might know and she would feel a rush of joy at reading them correctly. Then he would ruffle her hair and say, ‘Well done, little one.’

There were a handful of books that she was never allowed to touch on her own. Some had marbled fore-edges that created wonderful swirls, others were gauffered with delicately subtle designs or had beautiful paintings that could only be appreciated when the book was fanned open. Her grandfather told her they were very old and valuable.

She liked the deckle edges of some of the newer books in his collection, too. The pages of these books were stronger, sturdier, less easily damaged.

As she grew older she continued to appreciate books of all sorts. She loved the books in antiquarian shops but also appreciated well-produced modern volumes. Always the initial appeal arose from the first sight of a book – the dust cover, the font, the colour and then the print inside, clear and black and well-spaced on white or cream paper. The feel and smell of a book was important, too – the texture of the pages, the intoxicating scent of fresh paper and printer’s ink. On occasion, an attractive book would disappoint with an unpleasant odour and would be rejected by her.

When her grandfather died, her grief at his passing was assuaged by the library he left to her. In time, the volumes became warming remembrances of early childhood hours spent among his books.

And now she was implanting the same experiences in her young grandson’s memory. 

21 comments:

  1. It tells a great story! My magpie: http://verseinanutshell.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/open-book/

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  2. This is so beautifully written. Loved it! Perfectly brings out the moments of love between a bookworm and her/his books. :)

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  3. The reading process goes on. Marvellous post.

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  4. And the magic of books lives on...

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  5. Lovely story! It was being taken to the library as a child that gave me a love of books. Also, my older sister used to read comic books to me and oh, how I wanted to read for myself!

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  6. I very much like the idea of passing your love for book down from generation to generation. It makes my heart sing when I see my grandson's nose in a book. :)

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  7. That is so sweet. Mummy works in an academic library and she just loves books. More and more books are becoming electronic and she thinks that is sad. Nothing so lovely as snuggling down with a good book :)xx

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  8. This was written by somebody who knows and loves books. The story could well be autobiographical. Is it?

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  9. A very warm and loving story, the bonding of a grandparent and grandchild, just beautiful! A lovely read.

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  10. This is beautiful. One often doesn't realize what life lessons will be passed on!

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  11. Such an exquisite piece of writing... much like the volumes in the library, I'm sure. Your sharing of a love of books shines brightly through this piece.

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  12. A tender story. Your knowledge of books is impressive and well-portrayed in this piece.

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  13. A wonderful story and well written. You must really love the books, I also love to read.

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  14. books and the love of reading connects the generations
    lovely story

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  15. Thank you all for your kind comments.
    This story is not autobiographical - I never met either of my grandfathers and only one of my grandmothers (once). My love of reading was encouraged by my parents but we had no valuable antiquarian volumes just well-loved 'ordinary' books.

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  16. I often felt very alone in my love of books - reading and touching and smelling - as neither of my parents were readers. But this story resonates with me as if it were a memory.

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  17. passing on the love of books to another... that is a precious gift. beautifully told!

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  18. So sensuous with a beautiful attention to detail--wonderful short story! I like the progression from the four-year-old and her grandfather to the climax that reveals that little girl now has a grandson who in turn is being introduced to the sensory, passionate world of books.

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  19. A lovely warm story - books are wonderful treasures.

    Anna :o]

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  20. This is a beautiful story which really could have been autobiographical. Your attention to detail is mesmerizing. Very well done. I have a love of books inherited from both parents - my father's study was lined with hundreds of books and he and I would spend hours in bookstores. I don't think that I will ever have the same deep affection for anything electronic!

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