And yet the books will be there on the shelves,
separate beings, that appeared once,
still wet as shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
and, touched, coddled,
began to live in spite of fires on the horizon,
castles blown up, tribes on the march, planets in motion
There’s nothing quite like the fragrance of a new book, letters jumping off the pages to hang in the air and words that have seeped into the upholstery lingering long after you’ve stopped reading. But some of the most iconic books may never be reprinted again. Where the occasional volume has withered away and died, others have grown old gracefully, staying in demand long after their publishers have ceased to print them.
Possibly the world’s most reliable work on the English language, is the Oxford English Dictionary. This volume may never be reprinted because of the heavy impact of the internet on book sales, the dictionary’s owner, Oxford University Press has said the OED3 will probably only now appear in electronic form. Although this is a true shame, I cannot renounce my role in the volumes end, despite having four Oxford English Dictionary’s on my book shelf-all varying in size-I still find myself referring to my frequently visited online dictionary tab.
The Never Ending War is James Jones’ memoir of World War II, a vivid book on the wars graphic art. It reproduced hundreds of works across a broad spectrum, from pencil sketches made by soldiers on South Pacific bases, to grand commemorative paintings designed to hang on Pentagon walls. Coupled with writer and combat veteran James Jones’ text, the result was spellbinding. This unique volume is sadly long out of print, but remains a striking document on first-hand World War II experiences.
Published in 1992, Sex is a coffee table volume of explicit photographs exposing Madonna. Its photographs were shot in a range of locations, from the streets of Miami to New York hotels and burlesque theatres. Punk rock and Guy Bourdin with his surrealism, were influential in inspiring the erotica. But it’s been suggested, this once highly controversial book will now only remain a collector’s item.
Rage is contemporary horror author Stephen King’s first novel, published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, it is based around a school shooting. In December 1997 at a prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal shot eight fellow students. This tragic incident moved King to permit the book to go out of print. In a footnote to the preface of Blaze, Stephen King wrote of Rage: “Now out of print, and a good thing.”
The Wold Newton Works is a literary concept developed by American science fiction writer Philip José Farmer. He suggested the Wold Cottage meteorite, which fell near Wold Newton, Yorkshire on December 1795 caused genetic mutations to the occupants of a passing coach with its radiation. These travellers have been acclaimed real-life originals of fictional characters, possessing extremely high intelligence and strength. Over the last few hundred years, well-known heroic and villainous characters, from Sherlock Holmes to his nemesis Professor Moriarty, Tarzan to Solomon Kane, have all been labelled their descendants. Unfortunately it’s likely a three volume, leather bound complete reprint, of all the Wold Newton Works will never come to pass.