Book Excerpt

LUNACY AND THE ARRANGEMENT OF BOOKS. Terry Belanger

LUNACY AND THE ARRANGEMENT OF BOOKS.

New Castle: Oak Knoll Books, 2003. 8vo. stiff paper wrappers. (ii), 24 pages. First edition, third printing. A humorous and poignant essay on the idiosyncrasies of book arrangements by collectors over the centuries. Professor Belanger treats the reader to some of the idiotic methods of categorizing and shelving books. One gem from an etiquette book of 1863 decreed that a perfect hostess will see to it that the works of male and female authors be..... READ MORE

Price: $20.00  other currencies  Order nr. 14014

One promising method for detecting madness among book dealers, book collectors, and librarians is to examine the manner by which they arrange their books on their shelves. As a modest contribution to the literature of this subject, I propose to discuss the lunatic arrangement of books according to principles of color, size, number, aesthetics, subject order, Grangerization, and kleptomania.

Various sorts of books have, either formally or informally, taken advantage of color in their titles: think of Andrew Lang's multi-colored fairy books, of The Yellow Book (or of the Yellow Pages, for that matter), or of governmental White Papers. Meanings can become complicated: by Blue Book, for example, we might mean a guide to the prices of used cars, a college examination writing book, a handbook of contract bridge bids, the Social Register, or a book of etiquette; and determining the intended meaning depends on context. To a politician, a Blue Book is a government report; and because Blue Books tend to proliferate like Mediterranean fruit flies, one can understand the reply made by an Edinburgh bookseller to a woman who came into his shop one day and said she wanted a set of Blue Books: "I don't keep any, but 1 will procure what you want from the Stationery Office, What is the subject?"

"The subject? The subject doesn't matter, I want them in blue,"

With the help of a piece of blue tapestry which the customer had in her hand, the bookseller at length grasped that it was books of a certain shade of blue binding that she desired-books to match her carpet and the curtains in her living room. Once his mind "had coped with the initial absurdity of the idea of buying books for the colour of their binding," he found her an easy and profitable client. The blue books he sold her included E. H. Young's The Misses Mallett, Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, and Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows.

The Edinburgh bookseller concluded that he was a house decorator as well as a bookseller: he decorated minds and rooms.