26 December 2011

The Cream of a Book

[I]t is wisely appointed for us that few of the things we desire can be had without considerable labour, and at considerable intervals of time. We cannot generally get our dinner without working for it, and that gives us appetite for it, we cannot get our holiday without waiting for it, and that gives us zest for it; and we ought not to get our picture without paying for it, and that gives us a mind to look at it.

Nay, I will even go so far as to say that we ought not to get books too cheaply. No book, I believe, is ever worth half so much to its reader as one that has been coveted for a year at a bookstall, and bought out of saved halfpence; and perhaps a day or two's fasting. That's the way to get at the cream of a book. And I should say more on this matter, and protest as energetically as I could against the plague of cheap literature, with which we are just now afflicted, but that I fear your calling me to order, as being unpractical, because I don't quite see my way at present to making everybody fast for their books.

John Ruskin
A Joy for Ever; And its Price on the Market (New York: John B. Alden, 1885), p. 44.