I just bought an e-reader.. finally gave in… But nothing will replace my love for real - physical books. This is one good reason why. 5 notes
Will Your Children Inherit Your E-Books?
In 1898, a man bought a book for his 16-year-old nephew. “Many happy retoins [sic]. Uncle Spud,” he wrote on a blank page at the front.
The book: H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, then just out in America from Harper & Brothers. The ripping tale of a Martian attack that set the mold for them all, it’s almost more striking to a reader today for its turn-of-the-century detail: carriage-horse accidents, urgent telegrams, news only via newspapers. Toward the end of the novel, the narrator gets ahold of a first post-attack copy of the Daily Mail: “I learned nothing fresh except that already in one week the examination of the Martian mechanisms had yielded astonishing results. Among other things, the article assured me what I did not believe at the time, that the ‘Secret of Flying’ was discovered.”
Lehman noted the passage about the discovery of the Secret of Flying. “RHG?” he penciled eagerly in the margin. And, on the same frontispiece page where Spud and Esther had left their marks, he noted: “see p. 287 291!” In his own book, he mentions that at 50, Goddard wrote to the elderly Wells, thanking him for his inspiration. Wells wrote back: “Thank you for your fine letter. It’s the sort of greeting one appreciates from people like you.”
Lehman died in 1966, and the book passed to his own widow, also a writer and an editor. She lived till the age of 93. In March of this year, she died, and The War of the Worlds was packed into boxes with her other books. Weeks later, as her grandchildren sat on the floor sorting through them, they found it. They read the words from Uncle Spud and Robert and Esther and Milton, and realized what it was. Or, I should say, we realized what it was. I am one of those grandchildren, and the book sits on the table in front of me.
What happens to our books when we die? Many books disappear before we do, of course; they fall apart, or we put them out on the stoop for scavengers. A book like this one, however — a text that is still read and reprinted, that has played a notable role in the 20th-century imagination, and then a copy of the text that played an especially interesting role — is likely to be passed down carefully as long as we can preserve and recognize it. Like the Bibles some families use to record their histories, it traces a chain of readers through time.
Posted on Friday, 22 June
Tagged as: books reading e-books technology history literature NPR
Reblogged from: myimaginarybrooklyn
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