Saturday, September 12, 2009

Great New Books This Week. . . .

This week I received several great book purchases through our beloved Canada Post. The first, which I got for my dad, was a remarkable copy of the First Series of the Comic Almanac by George Cruickshank. Cruickshank was one of the most important illustrators of the 19th century and helped to originate the style of comic illustration that we came to associate with Punch magazine. He was the first important illustrator of the work of Charles Dickens and the success of Dickens’ comic novels owe a great deal to the wonderful pictures of Cruickshank. The nice thing about the book is that it had been very professionally restored and rebound using the original illustrated boards over a new buckram binding. Some people don’t like such restoration jobs even when they are done this well because they violate the original state of the book. This is, I suppose, the same as those car collectors who insist on restoring a car only to its original condition. I understand this sentiment and with some books I prefer the original condition too. However, in the case of a book like this where I really want to look through its pages extensively, it is nice to have this kind of restoration because I can enjoy the book without worrying about it falling apart in my hands. Furthermore the book is very thick, which always puts a great strain on the binding.

Another great purchase I received this week was a twelve-volume edition of the Collected Works of Charles Lamb, my great literary hero. This set was published early in the 20th century by the Merrymount Press and is #780 of only 1000 printed. It is in remarkably good and readable condition, particularly considering that it was once in the collection of Pepperdine University. There are faint indications of original library labels on the spine but they are light and don’t detract significantly from the attractiveness of the set. I already had most of Lamb’s works in other books but this set includes a number of miscellaneous writings that I did not have as well as a biography of the writer by the editor of the set Alfred Ainger. I will spend many happy hours reading this set and enjoying the subtle and comforting wit of Charles Lamb. The only problem now is that my 20 year old will bothering me to give her my other Charles Lamb books.

The third purchase I received this week was a set of the Historical and Critical essays of Macaulay. I have been looking for a good set of Macaulay’s essays for a while but they tend to be very expensive. I got this set of six books from Dave Shoots, bookseller in Saint John New Brunswick. It is from a larger set of the collected works of the writings of Macaulay but the set of six is the complete set of the essays. Macaulay was a good friend and admirer of Leigh Hunt and learned a great deal from him as an essay writer. My continuous work on Charles Lamb includes an effort to gain a thorough familiarity with the most important essayists among whose ranks Lamb has a hallowed place.

Happy reading.  

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