Books and the Sense of Taste
This is the final installment of this series and in addition to people tasting books I will also
address other creatures with a taste for books.
We have all seen, I am sure, either in person or in the movies, religious persons kissing the holy
books of their faith.
Not very often, but if pages just don’t want to cooperate, I will lick the tip of my finger and turn
the page right up at the tip. I was wondering how often people might do that. Well, a couple of
weeks ago I had a spot selling books at the Tantallon Farmers’ Market, and my sister-in-law,
visiting from Ontario, dropped in to say "hello". She picked up a large art book and YES! She
licked her finger and turned that darn page. I guess she hasn’t read Umberto Eco’s The Name
of The Rose either.
We have a 7 year old Belgian Shepard called Freyja. When she was teething as a puppy she
was a terror on furniture, cushions, etc.. I was terrified that she would get at the books – but she
didn’t. But she remains a licker and I keep telling her – "No Licking The Books!" All was fine until
last year. I was taking a photo of John K. Laskey’s Alethes, or The Roman Exile: A Tale, Saint
John, 1840. I needed the photo for the posting of this $600 book on the internet. I got distracted
left the room and when I came back Freyja had the book in her mouth. I bribed her with a treat
and retrieved the little volume. Only damage was three slight tooth dents on the back cover.
Lesson learned – my lesson not hers.
In the piece on Smell, I addressed musty, dank books. These poor volumes may well host book
mites or booklice. They love the taste of such volumes. They can be dealt with but an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are fortunate enough to handle books from the 17th
century or earlier you may see worm holes that go down through many pages.
During this series I resisted the temptation to stretch the senses and talk about good taste in buying books or common sense in book-collecting. I did not but I might well address both of issues in the future.