'Much reading is like much eating, wholly useless without digestion' - R. South
'If I had read as much as other men, I should have been as ignorant as they' - T. Hobbes
'Choose an author as you choose a friend' - W. Dillon
`A blessed companion is a book - a book that, fitly chosen, is a life-long friend,' wrote Douglas William Jerrold, over a hundred years ago. Major writers through the centuries have turned their minds to the subject of books, often with humour, sometimes with exasperation, always with affection.
Between the covers of this rich selection are excerpts from the poetry of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Milton and Donne, among many others. Novelists such as Austen, Dickens, Eliot and Swift have often paused in their fiction to extol the virtues of libraries, books and `the pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed', or to satirize them mercilessly. Interspersed with these are the meditations of the great diarists and essayists of past centuries - Johnson, Boswell, Macaulay, Ruskin and Montaigne - writing in letters, journals and lectures on the vital importance of `bright books' to the intellectual life of the nation.
Can books corrupt? How do badly written books help the serious reader? How rife is plagiarism? Does reading excessively damage your eyesight? Which is the best-loved library? These questions and many more are vigorously discussed in this essential anthology for bibliophiles.
CONTENTS The Friendship of Books 1 Old and New Books 37 Good Books and Bad 69 The Joys of Reading 113 A Sentimental Education 159 Bibliophilia 198 Literary Worlds 257 The Library 275 Notes 316 Index of Authors 337