Saturday, October 18, 2008

The uncut book

The first time I came across a book in which the pages were uncut (and seriously, all of them) was in my first term as an undergraduate. Exploring the otherwise empty college library one evening, I came upon an 80-year-old volume of Cotton Mather's sermons that seemed to have been there for decades without anybody ever reading it. I cut the first quire, more for the experience of doing so than to read the actual sermons. What I did read didn't encourage me to continue, but it means that the name "Cotton Mather" takes me back to that autumn evening in the library, the scent of old books and wood polish, a chill breeze and the sound of rustling leaves coming through the tiny opening in the sash windows, with drizzle falling on the windowpanes.

And it's just happened again: clicking on links from one blog to another to another, like a squirrel jumping from branch to branch in a forest, I happened upon the nut, or nugget, that Cotton Mather wrote a six-volume encyclopaedic biblical commentary, the Biblia Americana, that has never been published, but will be one day soon.

All very scholarly no doubt, but I'm too busy revelling in nostalgia to care about that one way or the other.

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