At last! My leatherbound classics have all arrived safely. They came slowly, though I have to say that did allow me to appreciate them all the more as they trickled in (they came in 8 shipments! Plus no customs fees that I’ve seen). They really are gorgeous. I was afraid they might not be as thick as they looked or as nicely put together but that is not the case. I can’t wait to properly feast my eyes on each one of them! They’re lovely. I feel as though I have new friends. As I experience each one, I’m thinking of the work that went into them.
The first impression I had of each was the fragrance of bonded leather and the wonderfully designed cover, usually with a sort of woodcut design and an inlaid illustration in the centre. YUM. The pages have either gilded or silvered edges and a ribbon bookmark completes each volume. I can’t even believe, as I go through them, that I got four of these for free!
There is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Other Stories, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, an English illustrator whose pictures for Alice date back to 1865. Those are the illustrations I’m most familiar with. The latter bit of the title of this particular volume excites me: I’ve actually never read other stories by Lewis Carroll! On a side note, I was in Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire last October and there is a carving in the choir that they say may have inspired a bit of Alice in Wonderland. Isn’t that cool? I regretted not taking a photo then but I had suddenly felt ill and escaped the church shortly after. (Maybe it was the church, because minutes later we stopped in a tearoom where I had lapsang souchong tea and shared a slice of decadent carrot cake with my sister and mom, and I felt wonderful.)
Next we have Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, illustrated by no other than Arthur Rackham. I love Arthur Rackham. I have a copy of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and also Barrie’s Peter Pan and a few other books illustrated by him as well. Anyway, this volume is also beautifully designed and the endpapers made me sigh.
The Arabian Nights edition is translated by Sir Richard Burton, ethnologist and linguist, among many other heroic things, which makes it one of the oldest translations of the stories in existence, but it does read a little like the King James Bible. Yet Burton has an adventurous life story regarding his visits to Mecca, and that’s what captivated me in the first place. There are other translations I’ve read and would like to read, particularly that of Husain Haddawy, but I have read this one before and liked it. And the illustrations in this book are flat-out gorgeous. Soft and colourful and wonderfully interpretative.
Jane Austen’s Seven Novels is a very pretty volume, and nicely laid out inside. I love having the books all in one place as well and look forward to reading especially Northanger Abbey, which was my favourite of hers that I’ve read. I admit to not having read all of them, and that makes me all the more excited to read them in this book.
For years and years I’ve wanted to read Sherlock Holmes, and here they all are in one scrumptious volume, but as with many of the classics, I tend to put them aside for more contemporary fiction because I don’t want to fall behind. The classics have been around for ages, so there’s no rush. Perhaps that’s an odd way of thinking, and I certainly didn’t always feel that way. There was a time when I devoured classics like they were going out of style (ha!). I’m still interested in Conan Doyle (has anyone read Arthur & George by Julian Barnes? Great novel about Conan Doyle) and I still look forward to spending many a night ensconced in mystery. I’ve been craving mystery lately.
I read H.G. Wells in high school, when I was going through a Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Wells, Orwell, etc. phase. I love all this stuff, which may surprise people, and I haven’t read all of Wells, though I’d like to. Now I have the chance. The cover and design of this book that comprises seven novels reminds me of the old paperbacks I used to read that sold for something like 60 cents when they first came out. Nostalgia really enhances a reading experience!
I have never read Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey in full. Bits and pieces yes, and I have an illustrated children’s version of The Odyssey. I don’t have a clue why I haven’t read them in their entirety; the stories are fascinating. I absolutely adore mythology and the times of Troy. You should see my three-volume Bulfinch’s Mythology, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli (who lives on Malta, where my parents live, with the largest personal non-fiction library on the island. Cool, eh?).
Now, I’ve been intrigued by Dante’s Divine Comedy since I read some of it in university but just haven’t made time for it. It’s not exactly light reading. But this incredibly lovely volume, famously translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and decorated with Gustave Doré’s 1867 engravings, is incentive to make time, believe you me. Boy, I have my reading time cut out for me…
This might surprise some people but I really enjoy gothic literature. I haven’t read a ton of new stuff, and I don’t think Twilight counts, but Poe stands out in my memory as one of my favourite gothic authors. We dissected Poe in university till all the fun was gone out of what I was reading, so I look forward to reading these stories again, long out of university, just for the atmosphere and tales themselves. Studying what was really going on behind the writings I read actually fascinated me for the most part, but for Poe, I just wanted pure darkness and horror, mystery and macabre. Delicious. Just like this thick volume, whose endpapers feature artful blood splatters reminiscent of a Pollock painting.
It will come as no surprise, then, that Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles haunt my shelf. I can’t wait to sink my fangs into this tome. Of course I’ve read these impressive books before, but I’m thinking their particular silver, black, and red leather casing this time will lend an extra special thrill. These might be ones I read aloud to Colin, an upgrade from the Twilight series he actually listened to me read.
Speaking of blood, Gray’s Anatomy is a huge and beautifully illustrated book. The cover is stunning, in my opinion. I’ve actually never seen GA before (the book, not the show, though I haven’t seen the show either). Mine is the 15th edition, and includes photos, diagrams, and drawings, and has kept my attention for quite a long time already. I’m not a huge fan or reader of non-fiction but the human body has always fascinated me. When I was little, I spent hours upon hours with my nose buried in my parents’ medical encyclopedias, which had clear pages with painted bits of our insides that when overlapping another page made the picture more complete. (I wonder what happened to those. I’ll have to email my parents.) When I took kinesiology, biomechanics, and fitness assessment in university, I used to pour over my textbooks just for fun. I memorized all the veins, muscles, bones. The way our bodies operate and how complex we are is nothing short of miraculous, in my mind. While I am sure I’ll never read Gray’s Anatomy cover to cover, I’m certain I’ll find myself exploring the matter-of-fact, simple descriptions in the interest of better understanding and appreciating myself and humans in general.
Truthfully, there’s not a lot to say about the Complete Works of Shakespeare. There’s not really any embellishment to the text, though the cover is very rich and attractive. I wanted this one because of how beautiful it is, but also because my Riverside is so full of marginalia from when I studied that it sort of ruins the reading.
Of course I took photos of the books but most didn’t work out and my stupid batteries are dead and the camera sucks and I’m a terrible book photographer. Also, the words on the backs of pages shows through, oddly—the paper isn’t that thin and they don’t show when you’re just reading. Strange. Anyway. I’ll put the ones I saved all in a row here instead of throughout the text so I don’t have to worry about trying to squeeze them in by their relevant paragraphs (if you click on them, they’ll get bigger and a little better). I wish you could see these books in person! Birthday money well spent.