Memory takes me back to my book collections

April 19, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As long as I was in active service as a humble Typist-Clerk-Private Secretary, I had a great love for books. My taste in books ranged without any rhyme or reason reflecting my nature. I always liked to visit a library, and from the time I could become a subscribing member, I took membership in more than one library at one time. Those were my Madras days. I was a member of the District Central Library, The British Council Library, The Library at the American Center, the University Library, and I had also occasionally visited the Connimara Library (I may be misspelling the name). I used to hunt for big books on Art, Architecture, Paintings and Sculpture. I was also visiting Painting Exhibitions, dramas and religious discourses. I liked listening to classical Carnatic Music. My visits to libraries almost ended when my college days were over. When I started working, especially in Madras, my books collection habit started. I was fond of purchasing cheap second hand books on the pavements even during my school days as I had to pass many of these shops on my way to the Marina Beach.

From the time I started travelling to and from office, I frequented a particular book shop where new as well as second hand books and magazines were available to peruse and purchase, I had become a regular collector of books. I think with the amount of money I spent on these secondhand books and magazines and sometimes even new books, I could have saved a couple or more of ten of thousands of rupees. But as my collections grew gradually I never realised the amounts involved totally. This is just a digression.

So much water has passed between then and now. I have retired, now using reading glasses, prefer watching TV and browsing websites, posting my blogs, taking care of the house, watching an occasional movie in a theater, eating out occasionally, and have almost stopped reading from books. On various occasions in the past, I have packed away my collections of books to libraries, selling to an occasional book lover, and losing some good books to book-flickers and book borrowers who never return them to me.

I still have a semblance of collection of some books, a pitifully small number compared to my total collections. I haven’t read any new authors’ books though sometimes when I visit a good book shop like Walden, I see their names and titles. I sometimes purchase crossword books because I am fond of solving crosswords.

One old gem I often take out and browse at random is an old publication called, The World of Animals, which it states is a treasury of lore, legend and literature by great writers and naturalists from the 5th century to the present. This book was compiled by Joseph Wood Krutch with his commentary introduction,  copyright in 1961, and published by Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York.

This is an amply illustrated book.  I have lost the illustration on the front cover and the back cover.  There are illustrations of ceramic, bronze, metal, sculpture, painting, mosaic and enamel.  Pages 27 and 28 are also missing.

The introduction itself is very interesting reading.  To quote a passage:  “God is absolutely distinct from man; man absolutely distinct from all other living things.  Man is at God’s mercy; everything else is at man’s.  Most animals who have any contact with man throughout most history have good reason to go in the fear of him and in the dread of him.”  Religions have helped to produce civilizations in which the rights of animals are much more likely to be recognized than they were ever before.   He says society has increasingly become humane and cruelty to animals today is a crime.

Krutch quotes the Englishman John Ray, stating, “Let us consider the works of God and observe the operation of His hands.  Let us take notice of and admire His infinite goodness and wisdom in the formation of them.  No creature in the sublunary world is capable of doing this except man, and yet we have been deficient therein”.

He quotes a passage from Alexander Pope’s one of the most widely read poems, of which I lift just a couplet, as follows:  Has God, thou fool! work’d solely for thy good,                                                                          Thy joy, thy pastime, thy attire, thy food? . . .

He also quotes John Donne saying, ..just as man is involved with all other men, so is mankind involved with all living things.  He compares this to the Copernican revolution in astronomy.  he says Copernicus removed earth from the central position and made it only a planet revolving around the central sun.  Man though not insignificant, he is great only among others which are lesser.

Krutch quotes Henry Thoreau:  “This curious world which we inhabit is more wonderful than it is convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired than to be used.”

He concludes his introduction by stating  that just as individual men cannot live successfully unless they live for something more than merely making a living; we must regard the earth on which we live as something more than merely that which furnishes us with a living.  We should gladly assume that Nature’s children all divide her care, and that they are all demonstrations of the wisdom of God.

This book contains the writings by various people and each of these is interesting reading.  I propose to reproduce some of them, at my leisurely pace over time, so that those reading them can gain some insight into the ways  people think


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