Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Books Than Sense

(just a small section of my bookshelves)
The ever-excellent Barbican bookshop - of my favourite local emporia - has recently acquired a whole swathe of second-hand International Critical Commentaries, including (as luck would have it) Robertson and Plummer's 2nd Corinthians. Needless to say at a mere £6, I snapped it up. I also spotted the Plummer-only 1st Corinthians nestling alongside and was about to add that to my basket when I just couldn't remember whether I already possessed that one or had only borrowed it from the library in the dim-and-distant days of my undergrad final year. So, pausing a moment, I tried to picture my bookshelf: I knew that I had Fee's First Corinthians, a number of Galatians commentaries (inc. Lightfoot and Betz - remnants of my MA year where it was easier to buy than run up overdue charges and chance someone else requesting them), books on Pauline theology, Lightfoot' Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, other ICC's - OT and NT; Proverbs, Isaiah vol.1,Matthew, John, Thessalonians, Phil&Philem, Hebrews, Pastorals and both volumes of Revelations...but could I remember if I had 1st Corinthians? No, I could not. Guessing that there probably would not be a run on them overnight, I went home and made an inventory. No 1st Corinthians in sight, so this morning saw me add it to my collection. What a sad case!

I have to admit that they are pretty ancient - 1st Cor. published in 1911 and 2nd Cor. a 1925 reprint - but to say that the oldest is nearly 100 years old, in fine condition. Looking at some of the more recently produced books in my possession, and particularly at the new Oxford or Bristol Classical texts (not cheap!) with their photocopy-quality pages and glued spines, I'm fairly certain that they will not be doing the rounds a century hence. The quality of books today is appalling: I'm sure I'm not the first old reactionary to say this, nor will I be the last. During my earlier years of Greek study I bought the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary because it was one of the few Greek dictionaries with the English to Greek section essential for prose composition. It didn't even weather the degree years, the middle leaves coming loose at the end of the second semester. What on earth is the good of a poorly-made dictionary? A book that will almost certainly see heavy use, lots of back-and-forth page turning? I had to stump up for the middle Liddell, a vast improvement, and when I got truly serious, the Big One, which is still giving good service.

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