I am a collector; primary in my collecting focus are books. I have a few out of print authors that are near and dear to my heart whose work I have scoured high and low for in second hand book stores both locally and wherever I travel. My luggage has been burdened with many a tome, filling the space vacated by clothes I am happy to part with, just to fit one more book in.

For those favourite authors I collect, I keep a small piece of paper in my wallet listing what I already have, or what is still lacking from my collection, depending on which is the shortest. I have one author for whom I am only missing one of his works. Now, I know I could easily go online and find it, but really, where is the fun in that? I like the hunt. Spending hours (and I mean hours) going through the nooks and crannies of a secondhand bookstore is my absolute favourite pastime. The feeling I get when I come across one that I don’t have is ineffable.  And when I come across something that is just special, well, my heart just skips a beat. The smell and the feel of the bindings, faded and tattered, tells me they were all well loved. I am not in it for the resale value, I am in it because I love the history contained within the bindings. It isn’t just the text, or the illustrations; sometimes it is the personal notes written in the margins.

I once found a pocket book of poetry, it was a gift to someone who lived far away from the giver. On the inside of the covers were pasted clippings from periodicals that the giver felt the receiver would enjoy. But the real treasure factor, which prompted me to open my wallet, was a postcard. Tucked into the pages of this little anthology of poetry was a note from the giver discussing that, although they both agreed that anthologies were generally not something of value in the literary world, this little book was the exception and the giver wanted the receiver to have it as a sign of affection and respect. Now that is a gem and I will treasure it always, maybe as much as the person to whom it was originally given.

In 2013 I graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor’s Degree in Medieval Studies. Maybe my love of books is the reason why a majority of my studies at University centred around Medieval Manuscripts. When I consider the absolute dedication of the men of faith who produced such beautiful books, the precise script, the perfection of the illustration and illumination, I am in awe. The copying of just one book took nearly a year and was the cost of a small car, to put it into modern perspective. I could go on and on about the history of book productions but I won’t.

One of my former professors, (and dare I say, one of my favourites), not only because he taught me so much during my first year, but also because his love of Medieval Manuscripts was contagious. At the end of my first year he moved back to his native Holland and took a post at the university at which he gained his doctoral degree. He ran a research project for a few years and the project created a website, Turning over a New Leaf, upon which members of the project team blogged their research findings. It is no longer updated as the project has come to a close, but you can still read the blog posts and gain some interesting insights into the production of Medieval Manuscripts. The images are beautiful and the modern take on blog titles and concepts is rather clever.

As a writer, when I am privileged enough to see and touch a book that is centuries old, I am so honoured to be part of this craft and tradition. I especially love the feel of parchment books. You can come away with the feel of grim from the inky fingers of owners through the centuries, from medieval students passing around their texts, to the collectors after them. Then there is the smell. There is really nothing like it. If you use your imagination you can smell the monk’s cell or the cathedral school’s classroom in the pages.

I feel that a great deal of the wonder of books has been lost in our modern consumer society. The computer age has made the process of writing and publishing a book so much easier and economical, but I feel that lack of expense has in a way cheapened the book as an art form because we don’t always appreciate the sheer effort and craft that a writer puts into arranging the words on a page. It is this craft that captures our imagination and transports us to other places and times.


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