Books and the Sense of Touch
The first thing you touch on a book is its covers or binding. In our house, 99% of dust jackets have protective mylar wraps covering them so the only paper I touch are the pages themselves. Books pre-1900 are mostly bound in a wide variety of cloths so that the feel of these books varies considerably. Leather bound books are another story. And the feeling of leather also varies dramatically from heavily tooled morocco to smooth tanned leathers. They all have a delightful touch unless the leather has dried out and started to flake. Not pleasing or desirable. One way to avoid that is to handle the book periodically. Years and years ago I used to apply a leather dressing but unless the book needs to be rehabilitated it is not necessary. The oils from the skin on your hands do the job nicely.
And as mentioned last week, paper used for book pages has varied enormously over the centuries and from book type to book type – not only do they look very different they feel very different. The textures are on a spectrum from soft and supple, to smooth clay substrates to brittle older high acid content papers.
How you hold a book varies according to the size and heft of the book. Paperbacks are light and pliable although if you want to maintain condition folding the covers and laying the book open pages face down is not useful. To do that with a hard cover book is criminal. When I am done reading a book it is in the same condition as it was when I started.
Most novels are easy to handle, but when you read an art book, or coffee table sized book, easy of handling becomes more difficult, especially when you read sitting up in bed. So, I always have a cushion to lay the spine of the book on when I am reading an oversize volume – which is most nights. I typically read from 2 books every night and I sometimes go back and forth. Like eating protein and vegetables – back and forth.
There are a few books that are just too large to read without having a tabletop underneath them. Taschen, Koln (Cologne) has recently been publishing some behemoths. I am currently reading one of them Massimo Listri. The World's Most Beautiful Libraries with pages measuring 15.5'' x 11.25'' and it weighs over 5 pounds. It can be found at Chapters, and it comes in a cardboard box.
Reading a book is certainly putting your hands and sense of touch to good use!
Next Saturday: Books and the Sense of Smell