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worth ten shillings when it returns from the binder.
And there's the rub: rebind your book and in nine cases out of ten-you will lower its market value. Therefore, if the book-collector have any eye to the purely commercial value of his library, he will do well to become an 'original-boards-uncut' man at once. Handsome his library will never be, for here there will be a whole set of paperbound volumes lacking backs, here a folio strangely patched and mended, there a book in rather dirty vellum somewhat cockled by damp, and so on. But he will have the satisfaction of knowing that his volumes retain, in their appearance at least, something of the spirit of the time in which they first saw light. Perhaps they will create for him the more easily that stimulating yet peaceful atmosphere which a knowledge and love of old books alone can instil.
Is there not, then, any alternative to preserving one's volumes in a disreputable condition ? Assuredly there is—there are two alternatives. Either the collector will be so wise (and, incidentally, so wealthy) as never to purchase a dilapidated book, or else he must exercise great common sense and much good taste, putting fancy entirely to one side.
You possess a copy of Cotton's translation of the Commentaries of Messire Blaize de Montluc, folio 1674. It is a good, clean, tall copy, but clothed in tattered contemporary brown calf. Half of the back is missing, two of the corners are badly broken, and a piece of the leather upon the under cover is torn off. Perchance you elect to send it to your binder, with strict instructions that it is to be repaired with plain calf. In due course the volume is returned to you, and it now presents a fearful and marvellous appearance. It is the proud possessor of a new back, nearly but not quite matching the sides in colour, and upon this the remaining upper half of the original back has been pasted. The corners bulge strangely, and you can discern new leather underneath the old and wherever the old was deficient. The sides shine with polishing, and a patch—again not quite matching the original, for it is next to impossible to do this—has been inserted on the under cover. The whole volume shines unnaturally, and has rather a piebald appearance. In short, it reminds one of Bardolph's face— all bubukles and whelks and knobs.
But perchance you possess another copy in precisely the same condition inside and out, and this you have decided must be rebound. It goes to your binder, always with your very definite instructions, and in due course returns, modestly attired in morocco of, let us say, a dark sage-green hue. On each side there is a plain double panel, 'blind 'tooled ; the back is simply lettered
and there is a 'blind' line at the sides of each band; but, beyond the lettering, there is no gilding whatever on the back. The edges have not been trimmed, much less cut, but have been left precisely as they were originally.
Suppose now for an instant that you do not possess either copy, but that both are offered to you by a bookseller at precisely the same price. What will be your feelings as you handle the repaired copy? It is more than probable that you will sigh poor thing as you open it gently for fear of cracking the old piece pasted on to the back. But, what a nice clean copy you will say as you take up the other; and it is improbable that you will hesitate long in inaking choice.
The repairing of moderately old bindings is an excellent thing so long as it is not carried to extremes. Obviously there are many cases where it would be sheer foolishness to rebind the volume, slight repairs at the hands of an experienced binder being all that is necessary to enable the book to be described as a fine, tall, clean copy, in the original binding, neatly repaired. And this is where one's carefully considered judgment and good taste must be exercised.
But advice is easier to give than to follow. If our purse be a slender one, it is next to impossible to confine our purchases to perfect copies in choice condition. And so it is unavoidable that a certain number of our volumes should be in a more or less dilapidated state. A book that we have long sought for crops up; it is a perfect copy, more or less clean inside, but in a sad state of decay as regards the binding. On this account it is offered to us at one-half the price which a sound copy would fetch, perhaps even less. Of course we buy it, and many others like it ; so that at length we are faced with the choice between a formidable binder's bill and the alternative of harbouring a collection of wrecks.
This temptation to acquire imperfect books and poor copies is a most insidious one, and few collectors can withstand it altogether. Andrew Lang, than whom there was never a more genuine book-lover, seems to have been as susceptible as most of us. I believe no man,' he writes in 'Books and Bookmen,' 'has a library so rich in imperfect works as the author of these pages.' Yet although the purchasing of a volume in a state of decay (externally, that is) is sometimes unavoidable, it should be every collector's endeavour, however modest his means, to avoid buying dilapidated books. If a book be at all frequent in occurrence it is far better to bide our time until a better copy turns up, even though we may have to pay a few shillings more for it, than to rest content with the possession of a sorry example in which we can take no pride, and one that will never be worth a penny more than we gave for it until it has passed through the binder's hands. Remember also that although the choicest binder in Europe may lavish his art upon our volume, yet a taller and cleaner copy in the original, or contemporary, binding, and in perfect condition, will ever command a better price in the sale-room. Our choice in binding-however appropriate to the bookmay not be the choice of him who next possesses the volume.
As an example of this discretion which one must exercise in rebinding one's volumes, we will mention an instance that came to light in a London saleroom a few years ago. A copy of Jane Austen's * Mansfield Park’in three volumes, 1814, was put up for auction and realised £20. It was bound in boards and was entirely uncut. Nevertheless it was not in the original binding, but it had been rebound in precisely the same style as that in which it was originally published. The paper labels had been reprinted in facsimile, and the edges had not been tampered with in any respect, not even trimmed.' The best price that had been realised previously for an uncut copy in the original boards was £18, ros.
The owner was indeed wise in his generation. Had he sent the volumes to his binder to be