I happen to be lucky enough to live right near a used bookstore that is a literal BEHEMOTH of a bookstore–I’m talking about the acetone-ridden aircraft carrier with sticks and stacks of shelves . . . two-books deep sometimes, with the perpendicular stack accommodating the surplus. The front desk near the old frontage building is PILED with new intakes and trade-ins.
So I waltzed in there looking for any wayward CS Lewis material and also a tactile edition of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard To Find. I managed to find the latter, along with an old version of Reflections on the Psalms.
Since I was in the literature section, I always scrape my eyes over the Mark Twain stuff, always hoping that they’ve accidentally shelved a first-edition copy of anything of his. I found three different edition of my favorite of his books, The Innocents Abroad. I also found three different edition of Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
Then this thought occurred to me as I flipped through each edition, getting a “feel” for them. I wonder if the experience is in any altered by the changes made in placement, typesetting, and binding?
I have a 1902 copy of The Innocents Abroad–already 113 years old and still a copy published a generation after it first saw the light of day. But the copy is replicate of what it was when it was first released. In other words, the copy I have is exactly the presentational paradigm Twain was looking at when he was alive.
The first time I read the book was an odd library copy. Then, I bought a soft-bound Barnes & Noble edition (two of which I’ve lent to others and never got back–POOF!). But I’ve never read it in the original tactile form.
I begin to wonder if I’ve lost something by not doing that. That maybe a magical turn, nuance, joke, or witticism in another edition is lost to strategically-awful placement and typesetting.
I’d love to hear your theories on this.