Simanaitis Says

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AS MENTIONED EARLIER here at SimanaitisSays, Wife Dottie and I accumulated books in anticipation of eventually opening a secondhand shop. Also cited, we gave up that dream when a nice woman running such a shop told us “It’s a fine way of screwing up retirement.” 

I am now near to deacquisioning 150 boxes of such books from the garage: Santa Ana Public Library gets the recent ones. Several charities get others. Some old, tattered or questionable ones get trashed or recycled, depending on waste management criteria. A bunch get reboxed and saved in the garage. And a goodly number come back into the house, with the caveat that an equal number of house books must undergo the garage-book analysis. All very rational.

One of the books returning to home shelves is Gerald Donaldson’s Books

Books, by Gerald Donaldson, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981. The cover shows Dr. Samuel Johnson and his bookseller in a discussion. 

I’m keeping Books as a ready reference to these comments by creators, friends, and enemies. And in reexamining the book, I am captivated by tidbits of biblio history. To wit:

The Oldest Writing in the World? Donaldson cites Falconer Madan’s Books in Manuscript: “Among the oldest writing in the world, on stone, wood, papyrus, or parchment, is probably a monument with an inscription in Egyptian Hieroglyphics (preserved in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford).” It’s estimated the artifact dates from about 4000 B.C. 

This and other images from Books.

Madan continues, “The astonishing thing is, that even in this remote antiquity, the inscription (the important part of which runs along the upper part) exhibits not only ideographic writing or only syllabic, but actually alphabetical!”

Etymology. Donaldson cites Isaac Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature: “Before the use of parchment and paper passed to the Romans, they used the thin peel found between the wood and bark of trees. This skinny substance they called liber, from whence the Latin word liber, a book, and library and librarian in the European languages, and the French livre for book. But we of northern origin derive our book from the Danish bog, the birch-tree, because that being the most plentiful in Denmark was used to engrave on.”

Bookmaking. Donaldson celebrates “the six-thousand-year-old history of books from the first primitive attempts to collect scribblings between covers to the fabulous illuminated manuscripts of medieval times and the proliferation of the printed word.” 

Early bookmaking, from an engraving by Jost Amman, 1568. 

Donaldson cites Charles Dickens: “Of all the inventions, of all the discoveries in science or art, of all the great results in the wonderful progress of mechanical energy and skill, the printer is the only product of civilization necessary to the existence of free man.” 

An eighteenth-century reading aid.

Hmm… I wonder if I have room for one of these? ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022

One comment on “ON BOOKS

  1. Valter Prieto Jr
    April 6, 2022

    Very funny to read “enemies”. I worked some time with a guy, very proud of never reading any book and making a good amount of money. Good for him. I have pity of his family.

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