‘A delightful society’ …

holinshedYou are holding in your hands one of the most interesting, influential – and readable – books in British history.

Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland have long been famous as the key source of Shakespeare’s history plays.  Given the role of Shakespeare’s view of Tudor history in shaping English nationalism, Holinshed’s long-term influence on British culture and English literature can hardly be overstated.  Michael Wood (intro), Holinshed Chronicles  (The Folio Society:  London, 2012)

High excitement at The Boar’s Head today with the arrival of this book.  Some people who know me well will know that I have said several times that I prefer books to human beings, and this is one of those times, especially given the general feverish tenor of my first week back at school, with exam season about to hit us like a tsunami that we have no chance of running away from.

Two things about the Holinshed, then:

  • the subject matter of the book itself, given the relationship to Shakespeare.  It’s akin to when I was first told that Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four had been influenced/inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s We.  Arden has mentioned / glossed Holinshed so many times that when I saw this on eBay, I NEEDED it, as you do; and
  • do I need to explain?  I mean, just look at the cover.  And that’s to say nothing of the beautiful woodcut illustrations that even non-Shakespeare fans at work cooed over.

The arrival of the latest addition to my ever-increasing ‘to-read’ pile coincided with this article in The Guardian about the resurgence, apparently, of printed books as they compete with e-readers (although the issue isn’t as simple as the report suggests).

One of the things these beautiful impressions do, I think, is to foster a culture of respect for the contents which e-books can never recreate.  But yes, I’m sure – I hope – there are many of us who believe that books are beautiful, sensual artefacts in their own right.  It’s this that has driven the direction and pattern of my recent purchases, as you’ll see from the last few posts here.  I mean, I could probably have picked up an electronic version of this for free, but which version would give the most aesthetic pleasure? Which would make the act of reading a pleasure, as well as the written content?  I’m with William Ewart Gladstone

“Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books – even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome. ”

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