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The perfect book

December 11, 2008

A little while ago, from a dealer somewhere in the States, I bought The Perfect Book. It cost me, oh, not that much, around USD 200, if I remember correctly.

It’s The King of Ireland’s Son, an enchantling re-telling of Irish folk-tales by Padraic Colum, with marvellous illustrations by Willy Pogany. The first edition, Henry Holt & Company, 1916.

Why perfect? Well, not just for its content, which is fabulous enough. For its look, its feel. Gold embossed boards, rich, slightly textured, cream-coloured paper, superb typeface (don’t know which font, exactly), wonderful colour plates – and throughout, great black-and-white decorations and chapter initials.

I was first introduced to The King of Ireland’s Son when I was about seven – which reveals me, to those in the know, to be a Rudolf Steiner child. I was reminded of this by the previous post’s reflection on Alice Springs, which I was astonished to find hosts a Rudolf Steiner school among its more unlikely artefacts. I don’t know if the book is still introduced to pre-schoolers, along with eurythmy, lyre-song and knitting, but I strenuously hope that it is.

This is what the glorious book looks like:

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His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist;
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
And the green ground under him

As you do.

Happily, you can read the whole thing here online.

But it’s still not nearly the same thing as reading the actual book. Nothing replaces the sensuous experience of reading, especially when it’s this perfect book you hold in your hands.

But probably not while you’re eating pizza or drinking red wine.

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