Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

April 29, 2009

Aesthetic Books

My husband and I had a minor disagreement in a bookstore this weekend.  We were browsing editions of Lord of the Rings for his collection, it being high time he replaced his mass market paperbacks with a “good” copy for long-term enjoyment.  I was leaning towards the 1965 box set with the painted dust jackets, but he liked the look of the 1984 Easton Press leather bound edition with the lovely gilt elf-runes all over.  Both have their place from a collectibility standpoint, but I prefer the books that reflect their original time and history, rather than fancy reprints.  Having a library full of beautiful leather bound editions is certainly pretty, but I find it doesn’t capture the history and authenticity of individual books.  I like my books to be cultural artifacts rather than art-works.

Of course, books as pretty things have their place too.  Like, for instance, as purses.

This artist was recently featured on some US tv show or another and her work is gorgeous.  Sadly she didn’t have a beautiful Three Musketeers or Count of Monte Cristo that I was willing to shell out for, so I found myself skimming Etsy for similar items.  To my great delight, it seems there are several vendors who “upcycle” old books like this.

Thank you, clever artistic folk, for keeping me enthused about all the endless possibilities offered by books.  You never cease to amaze me.

5 Responses to “Aesthetic Books”

  • Rusty Priske says:

    I have the painted cover version. After I got married my wife suggested we get rid of my copies since her’s were ‘nicer’.

    We still have two copies.


  • Charlotte says:

    Heheh, good work! Some day a book collecting descendant (or relative) of yours will thank you for it. Besides, some of those old covers are cool – didn’t Tolkien draw or design some of them himself? Then there’s potential awesomeness like this:

    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=24025084


  • Rusty Priske says:

    The Tolkien art ones are the ones I have.

    You can see them here: http://mysite.verizon.net/aznirb/mtr/oop/ballant_tolk_cov.html

    I believe my mother had the box as well, but that is long gone now.


  • Always Look Twice: Two More Parables « Inklings says:

    [...] Easton Press published in the 1970s a series called “The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written”, reprints of book club editions bound in leather and pressed with gaudy gilt decoration.  These are the kinds of books you might want to decorate a film set with, or maybe your show-library.  I doubt very much that many people actually read them, and I certainly believe that Easton Press paid somewhere between little and no attention to picking, editing and publishing them.  I recently saw another copy of the book at the Toronto Book and Paper Show and considered seriously buying it in order to have it made into a purse. [...]


  • The Culmination of a Long-ish Search « Inklings says:

    [...] ago I made a rather un-grammatically-titled post on the subject of pretty books, which you can find here.  In the year since then I’ve been visiting these artists’ websites religiously, [...]


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