For readers with a true passion for the sight and smell of leather bindings, and the rarities of the book world, the writings of Nicholas Basbanes are those of a kindred spirit. In 'The Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World' (HarperCollins, $29.95), Basbanes concludes his great trilogy of works on book culture, begun with "A Gentle Madness" in 1995 and followed by "Patience and Fortitude" in 2001. In this volume, Basbanes focuses on a number of issues related to book survival in the future. Whether it's library discards or the destruction of books in times of war, Basbanes brings a sense of urgency and intensity to every issue. Along the way we meet some heroes of book history -- Sir Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895), who suspended himself by a rope in order to make copies of Darius the Great's inscriptions at the Great Rock of Behistum outside Tehran, is particularly memorable. Basbanes also recounts the efforts leading to the recovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, the Diamond Cutter Sutra, the most recent translation of Daodejing, the traveling libraries that circulated among Jewish households during the Holocaust, the heroic record of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, created in secret by Emmanuel Ringelblum.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS. Excerpt from a set of brief reviews by Susan Larson in the Times Picayune: