I am a baaaaad person.
I used packing tape to repair the spine of my copy of Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (A New and Thoroughly Revised Edition, 1888).
When I confessed, I thought my local book pusher was going to have a coronary on the spot.
My logic (and, yes, there was logic involved) was that I do not have the dictionary for the purpose of having a nice, old book which will bring my children thousands of dollars upon my death; I have the dictionary because I want to know where words come from, and for the effort of a drive to the flea market and $10, I can do so. When the cover fell off, I merely wanted to protect my ability to look up a word, not protect the book from further damage.
I found this lovely little notice on Vespiary Book Binding. Book binders probably want me hanged. I take books in the bath. I put them in bags with many other objects. I stack them on windowsills, and on tables where I eat and drink. I let my infants hold real books, not just board books. My Riverside Shakespeare is holding up one end of my couch (’cause I can’t think what the hell else I’d do with it). I even forget how to properly pack books in a box when moving them.
Most of the time, I’m not much for consumerism. In fact, I think the world might be a better place if the Industrial Revolution had not occurred. However, it did, and I may as well enjoy some part of it. Thus, there are thousands and thousands and millions of books around; were my Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary to bite the dust, I could find something quite similar to replace it.
I also don’t want books to be put on a pedestal. They should be accessible to all people, in all places (including bathtubs).
There are the aesthetics to consider. Do not suppose for one minute I don’t think jewel-encrusted gold with medieval illuminations is not beautiful, but it’s not an everyday thing. Foxing is everyday. Dusty, smoky, fingerprinty books are everyday. Everyday is an aesthetic. Everyday is beautiful. Everyday is what I am, and what my books should be.
The Vespiary Book Binding’s blog on Ronald Searle’s Wicked World of Book Collecting has an interesting viewpoint, but it’s not mine. The book is merely a catalog of the physical attributes of my library.
My Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary is beside me as I write this; my cat is on my other side. I can’t really say which one I will miss more when it dies, but I can assure you they will both die. Then, with a sad but strong heart, I will get more pets.