Reading in bed has always been my thing.
“Honey, I’m home.”
I walk around in my stockingfeet while I make a cup of tea. I retire to my bed with three or four books. I keep meaning to replace the platform bed with a new frame and a spring mattress. I am too old to sleep on a platform bed. Was I ever young enough to sleep on a platform bed? I need a nice big fourposter bed with a tall headboard. And several very comfy pillows.
When you read in the supine position, as Laurie Colwin called it, paperbacks are the perfect weight. They are light and flexible. The spine of your Oxford paperback of War and Peace will not crack as you rest it lightly on your raised knees. On the other hand, a hardcover of War and Peace is unwieldly.
I fell in love with paperbacks as a girl in the ’60s. Who could resist the Ballantine paperback editions of Lord of the Rings? Or the Gothic love scenes depicted on the mass market covers of Wuthering Heights?
I do have my share of hardcovers. I own first editions of Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, Margaret Drabble, and others whose books I bought when new. But I am not a collector: I can take or leave limited editions. I am still gobsmacked by the idiocy of my spending $330 on the complete edition of Trollope’s The Duke’s Children (my shocking introduction to The Folio Society). I am oblivious to the allurement of leather covers et al but I wanted the complete text.
Anyway, I was sorting a few quasi-collectible yet affordable hardcover volumes and decided to take some snapshots.
The five tomes in the photograph are: Dickens’s Great Expectations (Penguin Hardback Classics), with cover art and design by Coralie Bickford-Smith; Thomas Hardy’s The Trumpet Major (Folio Society); Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (Heritage Press), Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (Everyman) , and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (Heritage Press).
I was startled when I pulled my copy of Hardy’s The Trumpet Major off the shelf and realized it was a Folio Society book. I bought it at a used bookstore years ago, because I loved the beautiful engravings by Peter Reddick. I characterized it a “book-in-a-box club” book.
Below is a photo of an illustrated page from The Trumpet Major. It’s a lovely, slightly tall red book with beautiful creamy paper and crisp print. .
The photo is a little dark, isn’t it?
Hardy’s Wessex novels are also available from the Heritage Press, which was founded in 1935 as an offshoot of George Macy’s Limited Editions club. The Heritage Club published cheaper unlimited editions of the illustrated classics originally published by the Limited Editions club.)
My Heritage Press copy of Far from the Madding Crowd has an introduction by Robert Cantwell and engravings by Agnes Miller Parker.
Below is an illustration of Bathsheba Everdene carrying a pail.
We all have to reread Far from the Madding Crowd to get ready for the new movie with Carey Mulligan.
I loved the Julie Christie movie, did you?
I also have a much-read Heritage Press edition of a novel that never makes a good movie, Wuthering Heights.
The color lithographs by Barnett Freedman have a curiously modern Y.A. air. There are Catherine and Heathcliff in all their rock-and-roll splendor as they stride across the moor. All they need are tattoos and piercings.
Penguin hardback classics and Everyman hardbacks are an inexpensive, sturdy, and attractive alternative to paperbacks or collectible hardbacks..
I love my Penguin hardback of Great Expectations and my Everyman of Buddenbrooks. No illustrations, though.
Are you a hardback or a paperback person? And do you collect any books?
Don’t feel bad, I once spent $500 on a gorgeous edition of Pepys. I don’t know what I can have been thinking! Nowadays I read on my iPad as much as anything.
Our e-readers are the ultimate light weight for reading! Natch, I have a paperback of Pepys, but there is something about a really beautiul book.
Oh lovely books. I have that exact edition of The Trumpet Major along with 5 other Hardy folios they came in a box set off ebay and the covers are very plain but the inside paper and illustrations are gorgeous. I also love those Penguin clothbound classics. I only have 6 so far but I love looking at them. I do read them too though, they are more unwieldy than a small paperback or kindle but there is a luxury to reading classic works in such pretty editions.
Small confession – I have a bit of a crush on John Loveday the Trumpet Major 😉
Ali, I envy you those Folio Society Hardys! The Trumpet Major is such a gorgeous book. I agree that it is a luxury to read classics in pretty editions. I will have to take a look on e-bay one of these days.
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Paperbacks can be beautifully well-made nowadays so I’ve no preference between hard or soft well-made books. I do love beautiful and appropriate illustrations and care about the covers. I’m struck with how paperbacks of classics even before the 1970s had these covers which nowadays announce books as bodice-rippers or “pop” and cheap;” and how since sometime in the 1970s classic books in paperbacks began to appear with reproductions of older respected paintings and respectable appealing imagery. I don’t collect though I have some collectibles. I’ve sought a particular book always but once in a while bought a book because it was beautiful to my eyes — or handsome.
I love the illustrations in the Folio Society books.
I have replaced many old paperbacks that have tanned pages or loose bindings. Even some of our old Penguins gave up the ghost. But I had the bodice-ripper covers, too, on my old Poldark paperbacks and several classics published in conjunction with a movie.
I love all your Wuthering Heights illustrations. You are right that they have never made a good film of WH. I’m trying to curtail my hardback habit – too expensive – but I cave in regularly. I do like the portability of paperbacks though particularly on the train.
Glad you like the illustrations: they’ve grown on me over the years and I just love this edition. Very odd Hardy’s books make good films and not WH!