A sense of books

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Sir Francis Bacon had great taste in books. Think of his most famous quote: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” The image isn’t so much of the bibliophile as it is of a food critic, taking a bite from the latest bestseller, chewing thoughtfully, composing a review in his head. But while reading other senses come into play as well, and not many seem to have rhapsodised about them.

Where are the quotes about the smell of gum and vanilla that fills the air when you open an old book? Where are the sighs of satisfaction on sighting the Vintage Classics cover of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the simplicity of the heroine reflected in the simplicity of the font (Baskerville) and the simplicity of the image (the silhouetted profile of a woman; so attuned is this visual to Jane’s self-descriptions, which suggest she’d be more comfortable with the dark… I am poor, obscure, plain, and little… I am your plain, Quakerish governess…)? Read more

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