Monday, January 21, 2008
While I love every aspect of antiquarian books, I particularly enjoy the inscriptions that I often find on the inside covers. A little boy's list of Christmas gifts; endearments from a grandparent at Christmas time; a tender dedication from a close friend -- each of these are a glimpse into the lives of the people who once owned and loved the books that are now in my possession.
But personal attachment is not the only attraction. This inscription, in the cover of a volume of John Ruskin, has no sentimental value. But for me, the beauty of the penmanship is worthy of display. The delicate, sinuous curves of the pen are not perfect -- the inscription is little more than a hastily-written note -- but they show that the writer took great care in learning penmanship.
All inscriptions in antiquarian books take us back to years long passed away, when people took pride in their penmanship and used it an avenue of creativity. Of all of the arts that have been lost, penmanship is probably the least valued and the least mourned. Perhaps it is time for a revival of a fine art that beautifies every-day things, and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.