The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


So Kindle has been launched in the UK. Hurrah! But is that the death of books? Of course not! Beautiful old books will always be celebrated. Here, then, is a new blog to remind us of something Kindle can't do yet. Which is... to become a magical intimate individual gift, something to write in, to give or share, press flowers in, love and look upon with memories, reassuringly unchanging (apart from the dust). And with a left hand page and pictures too! Here's a rare edition (1912) of Ivan Bilibin's Russian Wonder Tales, a collection of folk tales with a selection of illustrations by the great Russian illustrator. These images were first produced for a series of magnificent and luxurious picture books in Russia. This more modest selection was the first book published in Britain with his work. The retellings are by Post Wheeler and the publisher is A & C Black. The embossed cover is badly damaged and Bilibin's image hard to distinguish (it shows a scene from The Firebird). But the patina of age lends atmosphere and mystery and tells another story. The story of those who held the book, loved it and cherished it and then passed it on. Produced during Russia's most turbulant times, it must have been a very special reminder of all that was lost to any refugee who saw it...

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