The “Feely” Quality of Hand-Crafted Books

08 Dec

This morning I was reading a touching poem by Jorge Luis Borges. It’s important to note that he was blind through part of his life, and blind when he wrote “June 1968.” It begins:

On a golden evening,
or in a quietness whose symbol
might be a golden evening,
a man sets up his books
on the waiting shelves,
feeling the parchment and leather and cloth
and the satisfaction given by
the anticipation of a habit
and the establishment of order.

(Further down the poem…)

The man, who is blind,
knows that he can no longer read
the handsome volumes he handles
and that they will not help him write
the book which in the end might justify him,
but on this evening that perhaps is golden
he smiles at his strange fate
and feels that special happiness
which comes from things we know and love.

On that note, I went down to our poetry room, which we call the Red Salon, and picked up my husband’s magnum opus, Remnants of a Season. I imagined that I might one day be mostly blind, like my great grandma, and I felt the book with my hands—the dimension, the texture, the special binding—and I filled with gratitude for the aesthetic sensibility and the craftsmanship of others, and how these qualities enrich and stylize our culture in ways such as clothing words in the most elegant book binding.

Remnants of a Season is of such a “feely” quality that it’s as much a treasure to hold as it is to behold, and if ever I could not read it, I could hold it in my hands and recognize it, hold it to my heart and absorb it, even as Borges must have known his favorite books by touch.

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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Musings & Other Things


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