The Reading Room

The Life Time of a Book

Why books matter…..

I collect the works of ‘The Saint’ author Leslie Charteris, a prolific writer whose books were reprinted in hardback and paperback dozens of times and sold across the globe in huge numbers. The Saint was hugely popular in print, film and radio and his books would have made wonderful gifts for many of his fans including the previous owner of the book opposite.

This edition of Knight Templar is a reprint from 1941, a ‘Yellow Jacket edition‘, it was a cheaper version of the originals and the precursor to the paperback but also published by Hodder and Stoughton. Inside the book is an inscription from the owner, Ralph Woodcock who, in 1941 lived in Pilch Lane in Liverpool and was a gift from his friend Syd Nation.

Now it is hardly uncommon to find an inscription inside a book, especially older ones but what interested me as I took a closer look was the small inscription overleaf in which the owner has written ‘Re-read April 1987′ That made me consider the value of a book and the lifespan of one in a person’s own lifetime. For Ralph to pick the book up and read it forty six years later would surely have prompted memories of 1941 and his friend who gave it to him. The fact that to this day it is still in excellent condition is testament to the quality of a book and its owners, and for me personally, it feels good to know that a book which clearly meant something to the previous owner is now being cherished in a similar way.

Books offer so much in so many ways and it is easy to forget how much one can mean to us or another. I am sure this copy would have given some respite to Ralph Woodcock from the war which raged in 1941, Leslie Charteris gave the reader a sense of escape with exotic locations, sunny weather, luxurious food and beautiful women in an era which needed it the most. I always take the time to read an inscription, it is part of the book’s history and a reminder of its journey as well as our own.

Categories: The Reading Room

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