Book Otaku..Booktaku?


It's been awhile since my last post. With good reason, I have survived some 70+ hour work weeks, and had the stomach flu. One of those weeks was both, it was not enjoyable. However now I am healthy and on the down slide towards the holidays at work so I had a little time to put an article together.

Now I enjoy many things, but if there was one thing I actually "collected" more than anything else, it would be books. Perhaps I am old fashioned in an age of e-books and digital delivery audio books, but I like the tactile nature of having a physical book. My enjoyment of books however goes beyond simple ownership, I could be called a book otaku. Though I have nothing on Yomiko Readman, I do have a small book collection I am rather proud of and I find that it tends to grow in the colder months. I am also rather selective about my choices, unlike Yomiko. My book collection is almost exclusively classical fantasy, mythology, folklore, and ghost stories. Now I am not saying that I don't own and occasionally geek out about some more mainstream authors works, but they do not muster the same emotions as sitting down with my 1926 first American edition of "The Worm Ouroboros" by E.R. Eddison.

My favorite book, and the most prized in my collection despite its aged condition it has fared the years better than many books it's age.

Now I have been known, to much the embarrassment of those around me, to pick up a fine old book like this and thumb through the pages and exclaim "My God, they do not make them like this any more." Which is entirely true. I wish I could show you a comparison between the pages of this book and one published today but it is something that needs to be felt to be believed. Books were once made to be used, dog eared, lined, and noted. Now if you crease a page you will often be lucky if the page doesn't rip along the fold.

Now while E.R. Eddison wrote my favorite book, my favorite author is the much better known J.R.R. Tolkien. Which is an amusing thing because while Tolkien recognized Eddison as one of the greatest writers of their time, Tolkien had an intense dislike of Eddison's meticulous writing of strict Jacobean prose, as well as Eddison' tendency to "lift" prose from other writers. That is to say Tolkien didn't like Eddison because he thought him to difficult to read for the modern reader. Now what does that have to do with the picture above. It is perhaps to illustrate how much of a fan of Tolkien I am. You see E.V. Gordon was Tolkien's professor at Oxford. "Pearl" is a Middle English Poem and this is E.V. Gordon's edition the last book that he published. His earlier works are difficult to get a hold of in their original forms, but I hope to have them all some day ^^.

You may be wondering why I don't have any pictures of Tolkien's work. A fair assessment considering how I do go on. They are notoriously hard to come by in first and even second editions hard bound, and even harder to find in usable condition. I have a copy of everything Tolkien has published, even a copy of his edited edition of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", but none so old that I would want to include them in this article. :/

During my last two years of college I had begun some independent study (it was not formally offered) with a rather eccentric English and Language professor at my college who shared my love of mythology and folklore. I had begun studying Old Norse and Old English and I always appreciated when I picked up an old book the notes a previous enthusiast left. Above is part of "Pearl" which as I said before is "Middle English" which is a useful study no matter what older form of English you are learning.

My obsession with Tolkien lead to the discovery of several other great authors who were his predecessors and contemporaries. Which of course lead to the discovery of some pretty sweet books. Here is part of his collection of "Fairy Books" which each have their own vibrant color. I own only a few of the collection but they are an essential to anyone who is a fan of myth and folklore.

The Red Fairy Book

The Green Fairy Book

Now before you go and dismiss these "fairy" books you should consider that the above is a typical story from the book. Most are about beasts and heroes and beasts eating said heroes, often alive and still cursing. As with most things, modern writers have taken to destroying the harsh and most interesting aspects of folklore and myth and turning them into softened fluff that is easily accepted and digested by the masses. Fairies used to be terrible things that pretty much existed to fuck up your day, not the glittery butterfly winged things they are today. It is a tradition that unfortunately continues with.. more recent..

Expertly illustrated and here to totally eat those guys dead. Which brings me to another reason why I like these old books.

Bad Ass Illustrations. I mean, just look at that son of a bitch. He is clearly not there to help that chick with her depressing high school life. He is clearly there to fuck some shit up. Which is why I like these stories. There is not doubt who the monster is; he is the guy who entered the room with a trident the size of a small tree and proceed to kill and dismember the majority of those present. That was his way of saying hello.

Monsters - when they used to say "You look good enough to eat." they were thinking of ways to roast you over a spit, not asking you out on a date. Pictured: Perhaps the first historic account of Murlocks.

Even the nerds have figured out how to look pretty cool in these old illustrations. ^^

It is also of note, that when looking for old books to examine the publisher. Often the best and most well made books are not done by major publishers but by societies that exist to preserve literature or certain cultural works. This is my copy of Le Morte Darthur from the Medici Society. It is a great volume and has some great illustrations as well.

Pictured: The Medieval equivalent of this video.

Speaking of books published by societies if you ever see this collection of books from the Norroena Society at a garage sale don't pass it up.. or tell me.. I will drive to wherever it is.. seriously. You could say it is my Holy Grail.

Now if you find a book that has a title page that has "Privately Printed" you are most likely in for a treat. Often these books are privately printed for a reason.

Perhaps its because of of stories like this, or that the author is hilariously named Balzac.

Anyway, all of these books make for a wicked good read and I highly suggest them and many more if you weren't bored with my book obsession already.

If your not bored I am sure you will be glad to hear that in the future I will write about the various strange and dusty places I manage to dig these books up, and perhaps suggest a few more.^^

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