Thursday, 12 April 2018


I've been reading The Diary of a Bookseller.

Yes, I do realise this is an awful photo of the book cover, but it's the best I was willing to do, given my poor photography skills.

It's a fun read, but also informative. I'll be careful next time I bother a bookseller by entering his or her shop to browse. (It's a bit like primary schools. They're great places to teach, but it's quite bothersome that children arrive most days and expect to get some of your attention.)

The author being a bookseller, I'd expect him to have a good vocabulary, so I wasn't surprised to come across words I hadn't heard before. One was incunabula, on page 126 of the edition I read. Shaun Bythell, the bookseller, says that when he's driving to assess a collection of books offered for sale, he's pleasantly excited at the prospect of finding, amongst other things, incunabula.

Often I can guess a meaning by having seen similar words, but this one had me tossed. What could he be expecting to find?

Britannica made it clear to me. It means books printed by machine before the end of the fifteenth century.

Wow! To an Australian this seems incredible. Imagine holding a book that was six hundred years old.

I do remember, as a child, having the privilege of browsing the basement of the Ballarat Mechanics' Institute Library and touching a book published before Europeans 'discovered' this continent. I forget what the actual book was, but the emotional response is still with me. Wonder. Awe.

I think the books I saw that day are now in the State Library of Victoria, but I'm not sure.

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