Anthony Frewin

The shelves behind my swivel typist’s chair that is in front of my desk. An olla podrida of titles. Books tend to arrive faster than I can read them. I like Leibnitz’s plea: ‘If only when one purchased a book one could also purchase the time in which to read it’.

The next best thing to reading a book is just having it in proximity and allowing some occult osmosis to work its magic. Another way, of course, is reading bibliographies, a cheated familiarity with books you’ve never read. Some favourite writers here on the shelves, Melville, Queneau, Thomas Pynchon, Gershon Legman.

The slip-cased three volumes on the right are a reprint of Thomas J Barratt’s The Annals of Hampstead, and the three paperbacks above the boxed edition of the Grove Press My Secret Life are The 120 Days of Sodom that I have yet to read. A special mention of three really remarkable books that dwarf everything ever published on the same subject both before and after: Gould and Pyle’s Curiosities and Anomalies of Medicine (1900), Clifford W Ashley’s The Ashley Book of Knots (1944, but the 1972 reprint here), and David Kahn’s The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing (1967), a work of breathtaking scholarship ruthlessly pillaged by subsequent writers. Try and read the best books first because you may not have time to read anything else.

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