Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Joys of Old Books

At a second-hand book sale I found a 1944 Penguin edition of Conrad's 'Twixt land and Sea, a collection of three short stories, being 'A Smile of Fortune,' 'The Secret Sharer' and 'Freya of the Seven Isles.'

The book itself is absolutely gorgeous, one of those old orange penguins with the white band across the middle. The spine advises this is number 447 in the series. The book proudly declares it price to have been Ninepence. That's Ninepence, mind you, not nine pence or 9p or even the old fashioned 9d.

Even better, on the back, where nowadays you'd get a misleadingly enticing blurb, there is a charming advertisment for Greys (sic) Cigarettes, described as "Just honest to goodness tobacco." This is accompanied by a picture of a military type in one of those gigantic bearskin helments worn by the likes of the Coldstream guards. It is noticeable that he is not smoking tobacco, honest or otherwise.

Inside the front cover is an advert for "Service shoes by Lotus - specialists in regulation footwear." Inside the back cover is an advert for Mars Bars - "Nothing but the finest ingredients is good enough for Mars." We are warned, however, that "Zoning now restricts Mars to the Southern Counties. So here's hoping for a quick victory - and plenty of Mars for everyone - everywhere." Beat the Hun so the free world can enjoy Mars Bars once again ... And one of the leafs at the back carries a promotion for Cadbury's.

Given that this book cost me nothing, effectively ("Take this box, fill it with as many books as you like for $5.") the amount of pleasure I've gained simply from caressing its battered cover and smiling at its quaint adverts (a practice that needs to be revived) is positively indecent.

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