Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cautionary Tales / 1 of 2

We’re leading up to the point where a professional book conservator looks at some books from my family collection, but first I’m preparing for the worst with a couple of cautionary tales.

Producer George Pal filmed H.G. Wells The Time Machine in 1960 with stars Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux.

In yesterday's entry, I mentioned how William Blades, author of The Enemies of Books, identified dust and neglect as particularly pernicious.  Well, The Time Machine has the classic “dust and neglect” scene.

Far in the future, the Time Traveler enjoys a lunch with the peaceful Eloi people.  He asks them about their culture.  “Don’t you have books?  You must have books.”

“Books?” answers one of the Eloi.  “Yes, we have books.”  He offers to take the Time Traveler to see their books.

He leads the Time Traveler to a small museum room.

The Time Traveler takes a book off the shelf.

And it crumbles to dust in his hands.

Dust and neglect.

Postscript:  I love the way the books crumble to dust.  And the message is that they've deteriorated because of neglect.  However...  those pages that he's cracking with his fingers constitute brittle paper.  It looks like the pages were highly acidic and became embrittled over time.  In that case, the problem wasn't so much neglect but the way the book was made in the first place.
© 2010 Lee Price

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