Town Between Two Book Lovers: The Worn Out and the Pristine

There has been a wide discussion among book lovers: do you like your book pristine or worn out?

Perhaps, this is an argument not present in other collectors. Stamps need to be preserved. Action figures are encased in glass to protect them from dust. Priceless cars need specialized exotic car transport to avoid damage on the exterior. With books, they are torn between two kinds of lovers.

Some book lovers want their copies as good as new. No creases on the spine. No folds on the page. No highlights or any other marking on their favorite quotes. After all, if you value something, you should take care of it, right?

Others will disagree with this. A book well enjoyed is a book with several lines on the spine. Its pages are folded and marked with little notes on the margins. The best quotes are to be underlined or highlighted for future references. A book should embody the life that it brings, and that is conveyed on the copy’s imperfections.

Anne Fadiman, in their essay Never Do That To A Book, assigned names to these two kinds of book lovers. The former, with books so pristine, are courtly lovers. The latter, wearing out spines and marking pages, are carnal lovers. According to Fadiman, their difference is that courtly lovers treat the content and the book as one while carnal lovers recognize that the book is but a vessel.

The Courtly Lovers

person reading a bookBooks, especially paperbacks, are fragile. This is why there are so many articles about keeping the spine intact and how to avoid curved covers. Word Revel offers a step-by-step guide on how to prevent spine cracking, and it involves separating the pages one-by-one.

Anu Anniah, a courtly book lover, places a bookmark right when they receive a book. Their collection of bookmarks ranges from sandalwood, lace, crochet, etc. All kinds of bookmarks, as the biggest sins of book handling are placing the book face down and dog-ears.

For courtly lovers, taking the care of the book’s form and appearance translates as love. It’s simple psychology that when you give something a good TLC, it means you value it to a great extent.

The Carnal Lovers

Carnal lovers are painted as the villains of the bookworm community, but they are the villains who slowly resonate as the show progresses. Besides, is it right to discredit a person’s love for books just because of creases, markings, and folds? Probably not.

Anne Fadiman questions this as well, citing their brother who would read under his blanket with a flashlight right after lights out in boarding school. It’s not only Fadiman’s family. Other bibliophiles would read in the bathtub, at the beach, in the middle of hurricane–no matter the environment, they will find a way to read, regardless of how much it compromises the book.

For carnal lovers, a worn-out book is a reflection of the journey brought by its contents. It’s intimacy. As stated in the essay, “There is more than one way to love a person, so is there more than one way to love a book.”

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