During the night I began to realise that, although ‘Monkey’ by Wu Ch’eng En was snuggled up in the novels section of the library, there was no Gibbon among the shelves that I thought had been accurately filled yesterday. That meant that there had to be another History container somewhere among the 24 left to empty. This morning’s search demonstrated no such luck.
There were two.
Consequently another couple of hours was spent moving books along and adjusting the heights of shelves. After lunch it was the turn of Biography. In searching for the first of those, I came across a third History box. It was well into the afternoon before I could tackle the stories of people’s lives. These were all on their shelves soon after our evening meal which consisted of liver, bacon and sausage stew with roast potatoes, carrots and beans, followed by a chocolate eclair. All delicious. I drank via di Cavallo chianti 2012 then got back to finish the last of the biographies.
Over the past day or two I have spent so much time on the task of housing a lifetime’s book collection that I have often thought of Sir Leslie Stephen. Virginia Woolf took the name by which we know her from her husband Leonard. She was born a Stephen, her father being the eminent Victorian man of letters. The reason he has come to mind is that the Folio Society edition of a selection of his writings is called ‘Hours in a Library’. I have spent many of these lately, but, I think, not quite in the way he did, which was in reading and writing. It seems a bit antisocial to hide away with a book, whereas sitting in company with one doesn’t to me.
Stephen was the first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, the first volume of which was published in 1885 by Smith, Elder & Co. This is a record of the lives of notable UK people that continues in regular supplements today. From 1917 it has been produced by the Oxford University Press. The original edition ran to 63 volumes, which are now reproduced on the same sheets by OUP, albeit on thinner paper with one third of the number of tomes.
I do have the complete set which we are going to need more bookshelves and organisational ingenuity for me to keep. So it will be off to IKEA tomorrow.
Some OUP publications supplement my 23 of the original nineteenth century issue. How I came by these is a story worth telling. Sam and Louisa, when they were both quite young, had been given the task of hiding these books, individually wrapped, around the house and garden. I had the job of following their clues, as in an Easter Egg hunt, each one leading to another. I wondered when the supply would run out and how many there would be. They were a birthday present from Jessica who had found them in a second hand bookshop in Lincolnshire. I have never discovered any more, although, much later, I did find odd copies of the modern edition, with which to complete the collection, in a shop on Marylebone Road.