$20,000! How delighted/disgusted would Tom be? (Actually, more likely delighted.) There’s some element of paradox, for me, in rare books–if it has remained in such pristine condition for so long, who has actually read it? And who will read it? That a book of such reputation has been transferred from a probable locked glass case temporarily to one of MRB’s locked glass cases on its way to the highest bidder’s locked glass case is no doubt impressive, but doesn’t any book want to have its pages fervently turned? Dog-eared? Marked up a bit?
Of book lovers, there are two extremes of book “handlers”–one who keeps his books put away, spines straight, ordered by genre or history, and who even carefully holds them while he reads to keep the binding in good condition. The other kind hardly ever puts them away–there’s a tea-stained book on the kitchen table, a slumped pile of books under the desk, a book on the arm of the futon, books on the bathroom floor (always interesting picks). She will casually bend the spine, so she can hold it with one hand. I find each kind of handler both disdains and envies the other at times. So is one better?
Although I think the latter has her endearments, the former is the book lover whom history values. (Guess which one I am. Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t in charge of passing on Sappho.)
One other thought–during the times of my life I’ve been dead broke, I’ve often found myself muttering “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” As if monetary desperation were poetic, or I could woo my account balance to rise. Whoever lands this gorgeous copy of Prufrock is not likely to know what that’s like.