16 January 2013

Execrated by Learned Men

Jules Janin, L'Amour des livres [The Love of Books] (Paris: J. Miard, 1866), pp. 11-12. My translation:
These new editions of our masterpieces are full of faults, or rather let us say, full of crimes. And yet there are people who buy them, and who have them covered in sheepskin by bookbinders who should have been shoemakers. Thus constructed, the books stink of glue and rotten eggs; they will be devoured by worms and the paper will turn yellow because it was made from straw and rotten wood instead of cloth. These shabby octavos are execrated by learned men. But there are fifty imbeciles, fifty ignoramuses, fifty money-lenders, as well as several idiots, twenty convicts, and some serious, semi-literate prostitutes  not to mention a dozen newly-minted marquises  who will carefully lock them away in a richly-carved bookcase.

They will lock up their library, and tightly, as if someone would want to steal their eighty volume edition of Voltaire, their Touquet edition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, their Buffon, their D'Alembert, their ignominious biography, and the heap of twenty novels illustrated by the same people who did The Wandering Jew or Credit is Dead! "Books are decoration, and they suit nicely." Saying this only serves to disgrace yourself and demonstrate what kind of imbecile, dunce, and poor reader you are!