A particularly shocking experience occurred when I visited Blickling National Trust, in Norfolk.
The exhibition was intended to focus on differing attitudes to books, and boy, did it jolt my perspective.
|Inside Blickling Library (original volumes safely behind cases)|
My attitude hitherto has always been that if a book exists, it should be given respect. Copyright libraries, like the British Library and the great university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, perpetuate and reinforce this view, since they demand of all publishers a copy of each new book to store for posterity. In some cases this means building miles of underground tunnels, such is the pace of new book production.
The idea that not all of these books are of equal value is self-evident, but to just toss them to a pulping plant was visceral.
One book I managed to pick up had been someone's Sunday School prize for attendance and good behaviour, inscribed as such. It contained wholesome and instructive nature watercolours. I recognized the genre from my 50's childhood.
For a time, I reviewed the contents of my bookshelves with different eyes. I have piles and piles of unread items, acquired from book sales and charity shops because they chime with interests old and new, or complete a collection on a particular theme or by a particular author.
Suddenly I thought -"Why am I hoarding these books that I may never read, that no-one else wanted? Will I ever get around to reading them, and what is the purpose of all this time spent ticking items off my to-read list?"
For a time, my existence seemed purposeless.
Then, a new year began, a new cycle of aims and lists. With two daughters married, and waiting for the longed for next step, I mark time by going back to my old habits.