14 November 2018

It Must Not Be Taken Hardly

Aldus Manutius, quoted in George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 437:
I am hampered in my work by a thousand interruptions. Nearly every hour comes a letter from some scholar, and if I undertook to reply to them all, I should be obliged to devote day and night to scribbling. Then, through the day come calls from all kinds of visitors. Some desire merely to give a word of greeting, others want to know what there is new, while the greater number come to my office because they happen to have nothing else to do. "Let us look in upon Aldus," they say to each other. Then they loaf in and sit and chatter to no purpose. Even these people with no business are not so bad as those who have a poem to offer or something in prose (usually very prosy indeed) which they wish to see printed with the name of Aldus. These interruptions are now becoming too serious for me, and I must take steps to lessen them. Many letters I simply leave unanswered, while to others I send very brief replies; and as I do this not from pride or from discourtesy, but simply in order to be able to go on with my task of printing good books, it must not be taken hardly.
The typographer Bruce Rogers printed this quote as a leaflet:

Scan from the Library of Congress

9 November 2018

7 November 2018

Ian Jackson, 1951-2018

Georges Fourest (1864-1945), quoted in Histoires littéraires, vol. XVIII, no 69 (Janvier-Février-Mars 2017) 173-174 (translated by Ian Jackson):
Take nothing seriously: not yourself, nor others, nor anything in this world or in the next; — consider art (no capital A) to be neither a business (which is vile) nor a "priesthood" (which is naïve) but simply a pastime less absorbing than bridge, less demeaning than lotto: — aim to achieve perfection in things that are difficult and useless, remember that a writer will never be the equal of a clown, a juggler or a tightrope walker, and do not allow a day to pass without meditating on this declaration of our distant ancestor Malherbe: "A great poet is of no more use to the state than a good player at skittles" — spend as little time as possible with your contemporaries and try to live as comfortably as possible while working as little as possible. Take pains always to seem happy: this will annoy your friends. 


I only knew Ian Jackson from Mike Gilleland's Laudator Temporis Acti, where he was a frequent source of comments and quotes like the one above. I often wondered about the man behind the playful erudition, and was sorry to learn of his death earlier this year.

The summer issue of The Book Collector (Vol. 67, No. 2) included nineteen tributes to Ian, and these have been gathered into a limited edition offprint which features a drypoint portrait by his wife Ann Arnold. They reveal someone who was as generous as he was learned. Reading through the collection, I was particularly impressed by the equanimity of these lines to Stuart Bennett (at pp. 262-263):
. . . if it's benign, all is well; if not . . . I might recover with radiation or might be dead. Actually, one advantage of not working like a dog all of one's life and looking forward to an endless vista of well-earned vacation is that I have little novelty to anticipate, or disappointment to experience over a life cut short. There will always be another book, another article. It will be a beautiful day tomorrow whether I am here to experience it or not.
I still miss seeing the regular "Hat tip: Ian Jackson" on Mike's blog.

May the earth rest lightly upon him.


Ian's site remains online at www.ianjacksonbooks.com and the offprint is available from James Fergusson, who has devoted a page of his Abebooks store to Jacksonia. My copy was wrapped masterfully and arrived in perfect condition — a rare thing in an age when so many books are sentenced to plasticwrap poena cullei. I mention this because James tells me Ian "had strong views on packaging and the internet bookseller".

6 November 2018

Cerebral Hygiene

Mary Pickering, Auguste Comte: An Intellectual Biography, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 485 (footnotes omitted):
The final and most important result of Comte’s bout with mental instability in 1838 was his adoption of a new intellectual regime, which he called “cerebral hygiene.” Exasperated by the Saint-Simonians’ and journalists’ attacks on his creativity, he decided that he needed to preserve his “characteristic originality.” Henceforth. he abstained from reading newspapers, books, and journals, except the weekly bulletins of the Academy of Sciences, which he only glanced through irregularly. To relax, he did permit himself, however, to read the “great poets of every age and nation.”
Related posts:

5 November 2018

Walbaum ist wiedergeboren

I learn from Anne Quito in Quartzy  magazine (18 July, 2018) that Monotype has reissued the Walbaum typeface:
Using type specimens from 1803 and 1812, Nix, Crossgrove and Villanueva sought to extrapolate from Walbaum’s original intent, using the mantra, “What would Justus do?”
 Walbaum’s ornament set, restored by Juan Villanueva 

2 November 2018

He That Loveth a Book

Isaac Barrow, "Sermon XXII; Of Industry in Our Particular Calling as Scholars," The Works of the Learned Isaac Barrow, Vol. 3 (London: John Tillotson, 1700), p. 224:
It is a calling [i.e., scholarship] that fitteth a man for all conditions and fortunes; so that he can enjoy prosperity with moderation, and sustain adversity with comfort: he that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading. by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.

Related posts:

29 October 2018

The Library

Elizabeth Shippen Green (1891-1954), The Library (c. 1905)
From the Delaware Art Museum 

Hat tip: First Things, via Anecdotal Evidence

25 October 2018

Noli Me Tangere

"The Groans of the Museum," The London Mercury, Vol. XIX, No. 114 (April 1929), pp. 228-229:
An MP has been suggesting, by means of a question, that the British Museum should be given powers to destroy such of its printed rubbish as nobody, in the future, can conceivably wish to consult. It certainly is terrifying to contemplate the great daily inflow into Bloomsbury, and Hendon via Bloomsbury, of books, pamphlets, leaflets, magazines, newspapers, and music: and to imagine how elaborate the system of classification and storage will have to be in the future if the student of 2129 is to be entitled to expect, at brief notice, to be brought this year’s file of the Bulletins of the Large Black Pig Society or a complete collection of the published opuscula of Clapham and Dwyer.

Surely, surely, exclaims the rebellious heart in us, something can be spared : surely there must be  at least a portion of the "literature" which pours into the Museum which might be quietly put into the furnace at once, in the certainty that from now until Doomsday not one single human being, however eccentric  or erudite, could possibly ask for any of it. Yet the difficulties leap to the  eye the moment one observes the categories which the Hon. Member suggests contain material suitable for destruction. One that he specifies is "old comic songs." Yet one man’s "old comic song" is another man’s meat. We ourselves are intimately acquainted with an anthologist who spent precious days at the Museum searching through the yellowing backnumbers of Messrs. Francis, Day, and Hunter’s publications and those of their predecessors; finding in them certain things he thought worth reprinting as well as a good deal of light upon the tastes and manners of our fathers and grandfathers. Skip a century or two. Imagine that music-halls had flourished in Chaucer’s day or Shakespeare’s, and that a few volumes of the ditties they provided were suddenly brought to light by those relentless excavators, the Death Duties! What a to-do! What excitement! What competition! What eagerness to study and to edit on the part of all the gravest and greyest Professors in England, America and Germany, a host of persons to whom the strains and words of I Wanna Go Back to the Gobi and My Sweetie Is So Blue are completely unknown! The Museum is not yet bursting, and the bowels of the earth are deep. Let us leave "Noli me Tangere" above its portals and pass this risky job of selection on to our successors.

23 October 2018

Eternal Recurrence

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Quest of Happiness (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1897), pp. 184-185:
Would you consent to live your own life over again, exactly as you have lived, and in every particular? This is very different from having the experience of a second and different human life with all its freshness of interest. Is any one willing to go through his own life again as a conscientious reader will study a classical author for a second time, without omitting a single word? The willingness to do this is extremely rare, but there are instances of it. One of my friends told his eldest son at the age of eighty, that if it were offered to him to live over again exactly as he had lived he would gladly accept the offer. The reader probably supposes that this man's existence had been peculiarly exempt from evils. On the contrary, he had known some of the worst evils that can possibly happen to humanity. He had been utterly ruined both in purse and health, though he afterwards prospered and recovered. After a happy marriage he had known the long, sad solitude of the widower. He had been overburdened with family charges, both in his own house and out of it. The intensity of intolerable anxiety had brought on paralysis. His home life had been poisoned by the dread of famine, and his business life by the shadow of impending bankruptcy. Yet he would have gone through it all again for the pleasure of living once more the earlier and the later happy days! 
A related post: Do You Like This Idea?

16 October 2018

Is the Gamble Worthwhile?

Harvey Miller, "Phaidon and the Business of Art Book Publishing: 1923-1967," Visual Resources, Vol. XV (1999), pp. 343-353 (at pp. 344-345):
Publishers usually set the price of a book by multiplying the unit cost by a factor — it is at least three, but may be as high as eight or ten, depending on the nature of the book, to allow for booksellers' discount, selling and distribution costs and production and editorial overhead costs. [Phaidon founder Béla] Horovitz had a different approach — the disaster theory. He reasoned somewhat as follows: If I set the price of the book at a popular level, and it is very good value I shall sell many scores of thousands. What would happen if there were a disaster and my estimate of sales were wrong? I would still sell some books, since they are good books. I would lose some money. Can I stand that loss? But if I am right I have established a book that will become a standard, and will be reprinted time and time again. Is the gamble worthwhile? What can I do to make the book more attractive, and more saleable?

Only a small independent publisher, who stands to gain or lose on his decision, can reason in this way. Modern publishing conglomerates with committees and specialized functions, find it difficult to apply this type of reasoning although, of course, they do try.