A moment in time for just two pounds

Last week I walked through the Bloomsbury Book Fair and made two finds. One, a first edition of Tolkien’s picture book “Mr. Bliss” — especially fantastic because each two-page spread contains on one side the author’s writing and sketches and on the other a typeface transcript. But alas, I did not purchase it because while the bookseller was willing to part with it for 14 pounds, all I had on me in cash was, as they say, a tenner. But at no point did I second guess my earlier decision to spend 2 pounds on this edition of Thoreau’s Walden. It was the inscription that drew me in. Wonder if Haddon loved it as much as Bernard might have wanted him (her?) to. And throughout the pages, especially in the section on reading, are markings and underlines. Who made them? Were they already there when Haddon received this gift? Were they made by Bernard? What did the reader intend to communicate in highlighting one phrase over others? Who else held onto this particular copy of this, a bible for naturalists and those who travel a simpler road, before it found its way to the Royal National Hotel? The epigraph to this reprinting is from Emerson, who said of Thoreau after his death, “He chose to be rich by making his wants few.”

Endless is the path into the secret lives of books.

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