Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
23 November 2013
The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity, and this passion is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish.
Comment by A. Edward Newton (1863-1940), US book collector.
An observation which will be readily appreciated by the dwindling band of ageing bibliophiles who have whiled away many a pleasant hour in dusty secondhand bookshops – now sadly all but extinct – but which will probably leave today’s e-book readers baffled.
A. Edward Newton would have had much in common with Gerhard Gerhards , better known as Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536), priest and humanist, to whom is attributed the following remark:
“When I get a little money, I buy books. If there is any left over, I buy food.”
Erasmus wrote mostly in Latin. Unfortunately, the above English version of what he is supposed to have said is somewhat at variance with the original Latin, which seems to have been selectively translated in the quest for a more punchy soundbite.
The quotation in question is thought to be based on the following excerpt from a letter Erasmus sent to his friend Jacob Batt of Bergen op Zoom on 12 April 1500 (Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 1, 1974) :
Ad Graecas literas totum animum applicui; statimque, ut pecuniam acceptero, Graecos primum autores, deinde vestes emam.
An accurate English translation might read as follows:
I have turned my entire attention to works in Greek. The first thing I shall do, as soon as the money arrives, is to buy Greek authors; after that, I shall buy clothes.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.