Of the Old Rare Books Collector's Secrets
I begin, at Part Two, by returning to the opening of Part One and the ‘dentil work’. I now endeavor to clarify that wording... as book collecting code. I also endeavor, at this Part Two, to poke clarity at the essay’s title theme “Secrets of the... Secrets” by ...presenting... that topic (the secrets of the rare book collector’s secrets). If you read Part One carefully you know that I have already endeavored to start to clarify that theme.
“Dentil work” and the companion rare book being ‘set off’ next to the stack of similar books (Part One) (‘that may or may not have’... “dentil work”) is... a gracious and completed effort by the hostess’ rare book collecting entertainment offerings... at today’s gathering... to elevate her listener’s understanding of a small aspect found on attractive, classic and ‘of quality’ book bindings. ‘Bindings’ are the ‘covers’ of a book.
Or is it “Benjamin: STAY!”?
You remember Benjamin. He’s the doggie in Part One that stays in the adjoining cool and dark room full of bookcases of old rare books and wishes to eat the cupcakes being offered at the gathering including the reminder notice of these cupcakes having blue frosting (“think spring”).
Because... of the cupcakes, the clattering of tea service ware, the spilled crummy tea and the now noticed “Scottish Shortbread” ...brought by (“fat”) Peggy who is from Wales (and was, once, from... Scotland). The break (broken) pieces of the round shortbreads... are more popular at the gathering than the cupcakes (“I only eat one of those”) for the break pieces ‘disappear’. This includes the moist center pieces being competitively coveted AND the hard edge pieces... finding themselves tossed... discreetly... by the hostess rare book collector “at” Benjamin. The toss is actually ‘at’ the dark doorway to Benjamin’s stay room. Never mind; no one noticed anyway.
“Dentil Work” is actually “dentelle work” and was here shown by the hostess collector to the gathering to be the... inside a book’s covers... outer edge; where the leather is folded over... row of applied by hand... one by one... gilt gold decorations... most commonly titled “gilt dentelles” when referred to by old rare books... “people”. To no surprise this book collecting show of slight of hand was generally missed or only vaguely “heard of” by the gather audience who, I have endeavored to show... ‘had a lot going on’; a ‘lot to choose from’. AND the ‘dentelle worked’ old rare book has now been ‘set off’ TOO. But... now you know that I was the only person other than the hostess ...to ...know. I know what dentelle work “IS” and... now... so do you. I, too, saw the hostess’ display example ‘set off’. The rest (and you) ‘missed these’.
So... it is your turn to toss Benjamin a brake piece of shortbread?
“Oh go ahead”.
“Dentelle Work” having been pioneered, I move toward secrets... of... book collector’s secrets.
The quickest way into this sensation is to first ante the new book by Thomas Nichols; THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE, Oxford, 4/7/17. He denotes the death of expertise causation, attaches it to the scholar and tech gear worlds and includes a driving forces of anti-expertise and anti-intellectual sentiment... too. All of this is a vanguard of ‘being new to me’... too? Apparently.
These premises are... easy to conceptually understand: An any ‘quick study’... may ‘gets it’.
Stepping this quickly back to old rare books, one finds that this realm (old rare books) has a... been there – done that... heritage (with this new view ‘death of expertise’ package)... that is now a long ago and is specifically... pushed down by the anti-expert, anti-intellectual sentiment that has been shunning off old rare books and their people... for centuries. This includes today’s status of old rare books... of being ‘the same as it ever was’. And includes the classic dosage of “nobody cares... anyway”.
All these are very well understood by ‘old rare book’ ‘people’. This is why the dentelle book ‘set off’ took place. And this ‘why’ trails on to the ‘stay’ room of full bookcases full of old rare books... in the cool dark above the not noticed ‘watch where you step in there’ ‘accident’ (Part One). No one looks at old rare books. We; old rare book people, know this. No one wants old rare books. No one. In fact they do not even want a book. These days. That brings us back to Nichols. Go ‘read that’ and... leave us alone.
That is what is actually happening at the gather. The book collector is protecting, through her default bibliomanic behaviors, her old rare books from... “them”. I, a guest bibliomane... approve and support... her, this and... that. Especially the stuffing Benjamin full of shortbread tosses as a viable activity substitution: Feed the dog. Forget the (old rare) books. That is the secret of the secret; the secrets of the old rare book collector’s secrets. We want you to ‘go away’.
And you do.
Let us push this a little further. The hostess’ action of displaying dentelles and explaining them as curtly as possible... was not the secrets of the secrets. Book binding dentelles are just a (routine and standard) old rare book person’s secret. The secret of the secret here is the ‘set off’ of the book used to ‘show off’ “dentelle work”.
I saw her do it; set off the book. She did it; she knew she was doing it. “Why?”
All this? Because the ‘set off’ is the actual expression of the hostess’ true feelings, as a rare book person, toward that particular old rare book. She... KNOWS... the ‘that rare book’. And lovingly brought it forth from her old rare book paradise... “to show them” (the gathering)
This ‘brought forth’ falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. Cupcakes, shortbread, tea. Crummy gossip. Everyone is satisfied. The ‘that old book’ is ‘set off’. NOW... just a moment.
I know of... and notice this set off... and follow it back. To where? To where it (this single old rare book ‘of hers’) came from. She (the hostess) knows the exact trail. I follow along. SHE knows this ‘set off’ old book goes BACK “there” and there is, out there, somewhere... a... she refuses to share:
A shelf of old books in an old bookcase filled with old books... in the cool dark... room with that lone shelf having a lone space between two old rare books where... the set off book “goes”. As said in Part One, a book may be collected and shelved for several decades before being touched again and here we find a ‘that’ of ‘this book’ retrieved by the knowing collector for she... has known for decades... that this book does have splendid gilt dentelles; fine enough to show “anyone” The book is handily retrieved and shown and... now... set off... to be returned to that very exact space on the shelf between two old rare books; that exact space: The ‘its space’. Do I need to follow this whole litany of this ‘set off’ old book?
No. I have plenty of old rare books of my own that are doing (and do) the exact same thing...:
Exact same thing.
And you are not going to ‘show up’ and be allowed to shelve the book, see the book, touch the book or even breeze at the book using your trite conversation skills. No: You are not. This ‘set off’ book is NOT an old rare book from your old rare book collection. You do not ‘have it’. “Have one”. No: You have no old rare book to set off to be re-shelved. And we (the hostess collector and I) know this. And use it as a secret way to... exclude you. That is, stating again, the secret of the old rare book collector’s secrets. To know this when you see this you have to... know this. As the gathering is showing, very few ever even notice this; secrets of the old rare book collector’s secrets. It has always ‘just gone by’ “everyone”.
Once the old book with the gilt dentelles is set off for knowing re-shelving... the gather may return to the crummy tea vantage of its world and... or... engage another of the hostess collector’s old book (secret) tricks. Yes that would be fun... wouldn’t it. Why don’t we take an old dust jacket off an old book and wave THAT (protected in glassine wrapper) around while the hostess offers titillations as to how-now a Dust Jacket is “MORE VALUABLE” than the whole book... and many collectors specialize in “ONLY DUST JACKETS” and this is... crumb trailing along to a “OH MY WORD this is all NEW to ME!” soft landing. Put the dust jacket back on the old book and ...set it off... to be re-shelved.
Benjamin is restless. “Don’t you people have to go home now”. “They will leave if you turn the heat down”.