Thursday, January 15, 2009

Judge a Book by Its Cover


Lori, over at her blog, Before the Stroke of Midnight, posted some
of her most lovely vintage books and I immediately knew she was
a kindred spirit. When I purchase a book, it's usually because of the
subject matter. I almost always check it out from the library and
read it first. Then, if I must have it near me, I go ahead and buy a
copy for myself. I think it's very comforting to be surrounded by the
books I love. But every once in a while, especially when I'm in that
delightful second hand bookshop with the creaky hardwood floors,
I simply buy a book for its nice color or unusual or beautiful cover.
And that is the case with this book, The Old Gentleman of the Black
Stock by Thomas Nelson Page, published in 1897. I will have to
admit, I have not read this book, and probably never will. It is a
sentimental old novel, not something I am terribly interested in.
However, I couldn't resist the wonderful cornflower blue cover and
the charming illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy.

An interesting note is that Thomas Nelson Page was the US
ambassador to Italy during WWI and wrote 21 novels, all set in the
deep south. My Uncle Steve who loves anything to do with the deep
south would probably love reading it.


  1. As usual your post is right out my own thoughts... I often choose books by their cover or sometimes by the "feel" of them. I love the smell of paper and the weightiness of a well-made, aesthetically pleasing/interesting book.

    Nostalgia plays a part as well. I have a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo which I love but l love - but have never read - because my father read it to me as a child.

  2. Oh, bless everyone who loves books. A friend in my book club picks books solely on account of their covers, or jackets. Sometimes she is quite surprised by the interior. I have another friend, an architect, who chooses wine only by the label...

  3. Sometimes in a book store when I am there just browsing a book will fall off the shelf and almost hit me...or slip into my hands when reaching for another.So many times I have had the book pick me!

  4. I would have bought this book, too.

    When are you venturing out to the West Coast so we can go shopping?

  5. HDD, I would LOVE to shop with you! I would adore any place you take me.

  6. Which reminds me I have a credit at a near by book store with creaking wood floors, shelves chock full floor to ceiling and front to back……..perhaps a visit soon, especially for the poetry section. I love the feel of old books, the pages, the cover, the formality of them. Thanks for a lovely post Willow.

  7. I couldn't walk past this book, either. Is the spine as attractive? Seems a pity to hide the cover; I'd have it sitting on the coffee table for a while until I found something equally as nice.

  8. Leslie, don't get me started on the poetry section. I could get stuck there for a day or two. And if there's a vintage St. Vincent Millay, I usually can't resist!

  9. Thanks for the blog mention! This book is gorgeous! I can see why you like it so much. I do sometimes buy books just because they're so pretty! ~Lori

  10. I can relate! I sometimes buy old books because they look so delicious.

    I also love being surrounded by the books I love. Books are what I buy as souvenirs when I travel as well.

    Had fun looking through your blog!

  11. I, too, have purchased many a vintage book based on the cover. The contents are often not what I would ever read, but I consider the covers mini works-of-art. I will have to photograph some of them and send them to you.

    I have a few vintage children's books and anthologies and they are so delightful in their historic "over-the-top" fashion. Love the cover of the one you posted. Keep warm... it is absolutely frigid up here. Brrrrrrrr - perfect for staying under the covers, sipping tea, and reading... wish I could!!

  12. one of my favorite things is book cover art - I most often choose books for their cover from the library - at least that is what I am drawn to first - and I do have books that I haven't read because I was attracted to the esthetic of the book and not necessarily the content...

  13. My Mom accuses me of flying to the States to visit my favorite used book store and not her!

  14. Willow,
    I buy books. I always intend to read them; sometimes I do. ;-)

  15. What a beautiful book! I had a preview of the picture a few hours ago, as it appeared in my reading list, but was not yet on your blog - must have been a Blogger programming techy thing - so I was longing to see what it was!

    Your phrase about the bookshop with the creaky hardwood floor is so evocative ... and there is always that nice smell of paper and wood polish and frequently also lovely pot-pourri in those shops! Delightful!

  16. And people keep telling us that printing will die out in favour of eBooks. I just don't believe it for a minute!

  17. You are so a woman after my own heart. I have lots of vintage books here with ornate covers like that. Occasionally I worry about book worms (I think the old glue that bound vintage books can attract certain insects) but periodically check them and they seem fine.

    It's a beautiful looking book.

  18. Hello Willow,

    Couldn't agree more about how lovely the book looks - but then, it was designed in an age when beauty was an essential ingredient.

  19. Lovely post, as usual. Two aspects caught my attention.

    I, too, like having my own copies of books I like. I don't mind borrowing from my local library and returning the copy but then I will go on and buy the actual book.

    Second element. I noticed from your list of books you had on your reading list that some of them were hardbacks. Are you a hardback loonie? I am one. I love hardbacks. I know that they are not very easy to carry around when you're on holidays, for instance, but I still love them. The cover of the book you posted with your article is so enticing. Thanks a bunch :-).

    Greetings from London.

  20. Well if your uncle Steve comes to stay, he will be enthralled.

  21. I too am a lover of covers. In the antique biz, a certain color or patina will make a setting pop.

    Heaven forbid I should have time to read any of these they sit and wait...someday!


  22. What a beautiful book! I'd lay that one on my coffee table just so people could admire it!

  23. Lovely cover but I think I would not read it either... :-)

  24. oh! i do the same...obsessively...this one is a beauty...

  25. My first ever job was at Blackwell's antiquarian bookshop in Oxford.
    Spent most of the time cataloging vellum and half calf/quarto folio and so on.
    A delight.
    Contents of books: sermons
    Maybe I bored you with this before?

  26. Elizabeth, no, no! I love to hear about your job in the bookstore. I would have been totally in my element with the smell of musty books and paper. And in Oxford, too?! ((sigh))

  27. I love the design of this cover and the colour. It looks very Art Nouveau. I think I would have had to have it too, despite the fact that there is no more room on my bookshelves.

  28. This is the reason I'm so sad that bookstores are closing right and left. Because I like to hold a book, flip through it, smell it. Only then do I know if I really want to read it.

    We're lucky to have the Library of Congress here in my neighborhood. I should go more often.

  29. Reya, I am the same way. I like to feel it in my hands, flip through and see if I bond with it, first.

  30. I would have scooped this one up in a second! Then I would have framed it and hung it on the wall in a box! Gorgeous. Stunning. I want it.

  31. The winds from your Manor blew me over to Two Dog Pond last week. Congratulations by the way. Very clever! I won one this week! Thanks for blowing me over there!

  32. Publishers took note of this quirk a few years ago and began releasing the same paperback(s) in different colors...

  33. I have very little will power when it comes to books - vintage or otherwise. It can be weather-worn, ravaged, chewed by a dog - if its contents interest me, I'll buy it and stack it in my bookshelf so I may peruse it at my leisure. Sometimes it's merely the fact that I have it, that is enough.
    On the other hand, I often forget what books I actually own.
    I would have been curious about this one for sure.


  34. oh...this subject captivates me..i do sometimes choose books by the cover. Of course i need to leaf through them too.
    Also i feel very sentimental for such or such publishing co.
    and yes to hardbacks !!

  35. The title of your featured book intrigues me. I wonder how many of those Page novels are still tucked up in bookshelves?

    Where is your nearest good library? (I am so naughty in bookstores . . . but then it does help keep the publishing industry afloat!)

  36. Bee, I am fortunate enough to live near Columbus, OH, home of the award winning, top library in the nation! I can find my book through the library online and have it sent to my local branch, just one mile up the road, and they email me when it is ready to pick up. I'm in there at least once a week! It's wonderful. I know my ten digit library card number by heart. ;^)

  37. My grandfather was a bookbinder by trade and my father did the goldstamping and embossing...Now that I am older I appreciate what they did so much more and wish I had studied by their sides...

    I think I would read that book!

  38. Lovely cover...I love Silhouettes...I must get into that artform.

    Goodness, this post speaks to me...I love being surrounded by favorite books and would love to get to that great book store with the creaky floors that you write about.... Sounds like you could spend ages in there combing through so many treasures.

  39. Incredible cover! I love holding a book that lived before me. Such a feeling of connection to the past.

  40. I do the same thing--I have some books that just sort of touch my heart that I tuck into corners in the guest room for others to enjoy as well. I have a red "plaid" cover on one that's about Scotland and if you open it up, I have old leaves that were beautiful in falls past, that I've tucked into its pages...I periodically peek to see how they are doing. I always feel I'm "rescuing" those kinds of books from some awful fate if I see them at flea markets and second-hand bookstores. Second-hand bookstores are one of my favorite haunts. Your blue book is a gem here, Willow!

  41. I completely understand the desire to have interesting and eclectic looking books. I nabbed a bunch of my grandmother's old books for that very reason. I really have no desire to actually READ the history of Virginia though.

    I also snatched up a bunch of volumes of Dickens' greatest novels that were bound in a lovely hunter green cloth. Fantastic finds!

  42. Hello

    I love visiting Willow Manor. As for books I collect vintage books as well for the covers. I love old childrens books and my daughter's name is Daisy so I collect books with her name and make T-Shirts from the book cover. I saw a business that was making handbags from vintage book covers as well.
    As a writer with several published books I was most unhappy with the cover artwork chosen for them. Publishing decisions get made that don't suit your work. There is no sadder thing than having to look at years of work and dreams sitting there with a cover you hate!
    I think cover artwork is so important!

  43. What a beautiful book!!! I would probably be tempted to do the same.
    Whenever I go to the book store, I can't go away without buying a book. Even knowing that the pile of books to be read is getting higher and higher, the feeling of having a book is priceless,mainly those ones that you really love. =)


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)