Sunday, 17 July 2011

Beautiful books

Here at Sun Dried Sparrows Towers, ‘Operation De-clutter’ is underway.  It seems as if every available flat surface has been used up to put things on and the floor is now fast becoming a storage space, to the point where I'm starting to forget what colour the carpet is, or if we even have one….   So the time has come to have a big sort out of all the things that have accumulated in this tiny house over the last few years and to make more room for ourselves.

As well as being a practical necessity, I find it very therapeutic to get rid of excessive clutter, but an added bonus is that I realise how much I value the things I decide to keep.  Amongst these are my favourite beautiful books.

And one of these is ‘City Of Spades’ by Colin MacInnes, which now joins its bookshelf companions, ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Mr Love and Justice’.  I was so pleased and grateful to have been given this recently.  As I’ve only just started reading it I can’t provide a full review yet, but it already earns its place amongst a select few – the  lovely, special, old paperbacks that I value for so much more than just their content.  Like the other two in the series (which I’ve written about previously on here) it’s a 1964 edition Penguin with a classic orange spine and a Peter Blake cover illustration.  Its pages are tanned and creased, its cover a little bent at the corners, the bottom of its spine worn from all the times it has no doubt been removed from and then returned to various book shelves.  Who knows how many homes it has had, how many thumbs have flicked through its pages, how much it has been loved and discussed, how many people it has perhaps inspired or influenced, how many emotions it has charged?   I’ll never know.  I can only imagine.  Perhaps that’s part of the appeal.

These beautiful, characterful books are travelling no further.  They’re staying here now, where they can join me in the remaining chapters of my own life.


  1. What lovely illustrations. I de-cluttered all my MacInnes books a while back but, like you, woulda definitely kept hold of theses beauties. Have you seen the new edition of Absolute Beginners? Ghastly.

  2. Books make great life time companions, they have the patience to wait for us to re-read them over and over.

  3. I like the old William Morris thing: never have anything in your house that isn't useful or beautiful. Sadly, it's not something I've ever remotely achieved....

    Love the white space on that Mr Love and Justice cover. V. brave!

  4. I seem to recall commenting awhile back on your Penguin classics MacInnes post. It's very cool that you have all three (I'm jealous I just have "City Of Spades"). The Peter Blake artwork on these are as cool as one of my beloved 60's French E.P. sleeves!

  5. Thanks all for comments!
    Hi Monkey, I've not seen the new edition of AB, but I can imagine how it just couldn't match this one! There's something understated about these 60s editions which just works so well.

    Hello Drake, that's a lovely way to look at books, thanks!

    I like that Morris quote too, A; like you I find it's not an easy thing to achieve... also like the quote from Samuel Johnson, "books, like friends, should be few and well chosen".

    Thanks Wilthomer, yeah, I think book covers like record sleeves can be appreciated on their own merits as well as for what they are wrapped around! I feel privileged to have been given these three especially.

  6. I'm so glad you kept these books...;-)

  7. Thank you, Creative Director... I wonder if they'll ever turn up on those t-shirts?

  8. Lovely collection - especially the Peter Blake covers. Mr.Love & Justice is particularly good. I still get that melancholic tinge whenever I see these vintage Penguins as it reminds me of having to sell off hundreds of them. The sale was forced upon me by having to move to a much smaller house and having no room for them. Vicarious thrills, eh?

  9. Hi Sid, and thanks. Oh what a shame you had to sell off all those old Penguins... but lack of space is a problem with which I'm very familiar so I can understand. I guess in the end you just have to be choosy! A branch of Oxfam not far from here has a whole section devoted just to vintage Penguins... it's just lovely to see them all together somehow.


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