Early American Books & Printing

Early American Books & Printing

Early American Books & Printing

Early American Books & Printing

Excerpt

The Walrus said it was time to talk of many things, but his agenda specified only seven, and he never mentioned any of them again.

Any book, particularly any book about books, that attempts a compact survey of a broad field must be an exercise in superficialities. Let the commentator confine his province as closely as he may, it will bulge out in some spots and collapse in others -- he projects an area as quadrangular as Wyoming, and by the time he has it plotted, it is as amorphous as Switzerland.

Consider momentarily the casual group photograph. Nothing is quite so uninteresting unless it be a second casual group photograph. But in the most casual of such representations of self-consciously posed humanity, one notes a face or two, or half a dozen, over which one lingers as Keats lingered over the lover and the lady of the Attic shape. The notes which follow flit similarly from face to face, from title-page to title-page, from imprint to imprint, in the crowded group photograph of early American books.

At the outset it was essential to decide whether to essay the utilitarian detail and inclusiveness of the telephone directory or to loiter, agreeably to one's self, over more or less arbitrary choices and to attempt at the same time to lend the presentation a semblance of narrative -- whether to make the product a reference manual or something that might conceivably be read for its own continuity. For in . . .

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