I am lucky enough to own a few books that I consider really beautiful (not valuable…. it’s not the same thing.) Here’s a selection. The pictures don’t do them justice.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
There is a little story behind this one. I had this book in a battered paperback edition, with a horrible cover. I asked the eldest Miss Oblique if should be kind enough to make me a new cover. Instead, she bought me this lovely hardback edition, with a nice texture to the cover and eminently readable print. I don’t consider a book beuatiful if it’s not readable. (It’s a great book: the original cyberpunk novel. More on William Gibson in a later post, I think.)
Looking at London by Ronald Searle and Kaye Webb
I have read this book endlessly, as can be seen. It is a series of sketches of people and places in London by Ronald Searle, with commentaries by his then wife, Kaye Webb. It’s battered but lovely, with a soft cover and what was an attractive dust cover. Both drawings and writing are charming. This book belonged to my grandfather. (See My grandfather’s books: A gentle tribute to a gentle man )
Gong Dreaming (Parts 1 and 2) by Daevid Allen
It’s very hard to explain the contents of these books to anybody who doesn’t know about the Planet Gong. Let’s just say they are autobiographies of that totally individual and remarkable musician and poet, Daevid Allen…. or Bert Camembert….. or Dingo Virgin….. or….. They centre on the formation of the band called Gong, which you may know is one of my all-time favourites. (See Musical Bodies) Much of the text has a philosophical and spiritual nature. The illustrations, photographic or otherwise, are fascinating. The reliability of the facts is….. suspect. To my pleasure, my copy of Gong Dreaming 2 is signed; not that I approve of cults of personality, you understand.
Rice’s Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice
Another gift, this time from the FPs. This is a beautiful book, as well as a useful one. It is what it says; the illustrations are lovely and lovingly annotated. The paper is satisfyingly good quality.
Tour de France 100 by Richard Moore
This time, the contents of the book (mostly photographs) are what make it impressive. There are photographs from the beginning of the Tour to the 100th (the Bradley Wiggins victory). As with television coverage, the landscapes are perhaps the most visually striking aspect, but the cyclists, from the black and white supermen to the modern supermen, are the heroes.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Again, this was a present, again from the eldest Miss Oblique, a lover of books and lovely things. In fact it was a retirement gift. It’s a charming text, written in 1938; but it’s here because it is a beautiful book, in a modern edition by Persephone Books. As you can see, it has lovely endpapers; it has lovely illustrations; it’s just lovely, and another good argument for ‘real’ books rather than e-books. (Again, see various past posts; I have decided both formats are good.)
(On reading this through, I realise I have not addressed what makes a beautiful book. In this case, I only claim the beauty to be in the eye of the beholder.)