Saturday, 25 April 2009

Only an old book . . .

One on nature of course - The Spirit of the Wild by H W Shepheard-Walwyn. It was published in 1924, just the one printing I think, so this is a First Edition by default. Apart from the content, and old black and white photos, I bought it for the dedication: "To my darling, on her 17th birthday." My initial instinct was a gift from a father to his daughter. That daughter would have been born in 1908, over a hundred years ago now. It was a much-loved book. The top of the spine soft and slightly outward-bent from years of an index finger drawing it down from the bookshelf. The bottom of the spine slightly grubby from years of being held by a hand as it was read - perhaps its owner was a keen gardener! It is written in the wonderful descriptive way which is so out of fashion in modern times. Nothing like as eloquent as "BB" (Denys Watkins-Pitchford), and there is an element of the somewhat strangulated Victorian voice in it, but some passages evoke a different time, as when he writes of "the monotonous burr-r-r-r of a nightjar - appropriate name indeed! - suddenly burst jarringly upon the stillness, while small brown objects scurried from my path into the undergrowth. Rose at length, like some gaunt spectre in the waaxing moonlight, with naked fingers pointing heavenward, the pathetic husk of a once mighty monarch of the forest, struck by lightening a few years since, and still overlooked by the woodman's axe . . ."

"To my darling, on her 17th birthday" - just the sort of thing I have written on flyleafs myself . . .


  1. One of the things I really like about old books is the dedications or even just the name of the previous owner with perhaps a date. Even better is finding old cuttings or handwritten notes tucked in among the pages. I'm sure you know what I mean:)

  2. how fantastic! i just love old books and to find an inscription or slip of paper is always exciting...except maybe shopping lists?!

  3. How evocative! I love finding inscriptions in books,I even like opening some of my old ones & finding a Happy Christmas little one,1972 etc
    GTM x x