Book sale , that too library books sale where the local library sells off its old books at a huge discount, is an event that I often watch out for not only because I could lay hands on the books at an abysmally low price but also that those books contain a lot of history inside of themselves.
Not that I meant the history books. They could be books on any topic but having been worn out and touched and handled in all the pages, those books contain a sense of history in them. That they have provided knowledge or entertainment or academic value add or pure relaxation to those that have handled them earlier, provides a sense of great antiquity to them thus enhancing their value.
These older books have two parts of history in themselves. One is the history that the author of the book would have imparted to the book denoting the time at which he would have written. The other is the relations that the book would have had, by virtue of it being a library book, with its readers of differing age groups, ethnicity and outlook.
In a way, I think books are more secular than the authors that write them. Though they might contain non-secular content thus reflecting the author’s leanings, they essentially are available for being read by people irrespective of their orientation – religious, political, philosophical , racial etc.
Not only do the books contain what they are supposed to contain – what the authors of them had aspired them to contain – but also open the ancient world of the author to the reader across many centuries. Thus when a reader opens a book he starts interacting with the author who had lived many centuries earlier than the reader. In a way I feel that the author begins to live inside his book once he sheds his mortal coil and springs into life once a reader chances upon the book in a library and begins to convey what he had wanted to convey when he was alive , physically.
But is it not strange that books become cheaper as they grow older ? Don’t books acquire a sense of ‘karma’ as they grow old and hence should their value not increase leave alone decrease ?
And you come across some used-books across the pavements on the streets. They range from the esoteric to the ephemeral to the ethereal, covering vast areas of knowledge from fiction, to astronomy to nuclear physics to the “IBM-PC Repair Guide” kinds.
Then there are the used school books with an assortment of hieroglyphics on the different pages in various degrees of deformation with the inscriptions ( both in pen and pencil) conveying the list of owners of the book, specifying the schools and class ( with the section ) and some indecipherable scribbles that seems to signify something that is not easily understood. Then the mind wanders wild and I begin to think of what the erstwhile owner of the text book might be doing at that very moment. Would he / she have come up in life ? Would she have been an author of another book of a similar kind ? The answer doesn’t seem to arrive and there is an immediate sense of melancholy that gets set.
Note to my brother : I have discounted the books that had been “gifted” to you “involuntarily” by the librarian at Neyveli and those that found their way into your over-sized shirt pockets during numerous occasions, without your knowing them as you came of the library. Those are the books that convey a different sense of “history“.