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26 January 2020
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 Book Shops > Pearls Before ... A Seasonal Tale

Pearls Before ... A Seasonal Tale

Cast iron cold in the grudging early morning light; scenes from Bruegel spring to mind. Figures in ill-fitting clothes, with bad teeth and worrying haircuts, scurry across the grim tarmac. Judging by their stiffness of limb, some must be wearing their entire wardrobes.

The detritus of interrupted lives spills from the maws of battered vans, sprawling in heaps and forming intestinal trails between the frozen puddles. Robbed of meaning, context melting with the ice - the fruit of the house clearance.

I join the dance. Sliding between vehicles, swerving round knots of haggling punters, skipping over crouched figures mesmerised by the contents of mouldering boxes. Don't look - listen. Tune out the raucous clamour of objects without virtue and strain to hear that small, quiet voice.

We pickers-over flap around each new arrival; rapt in our own quests like crows on a rubbish tip. I am drawn to a recently disgorged melange of old newspapers, photos of the long dead, broken picture frames and… A hint of Gothic typeface, a flash of colour, a short haggle, notes pressed to the flesh - they are mine! Fend off offers of a quick profit and stash them safely.

Later, with the feeling slowly returning to my fingers and caffeine reviving my dulled senses, I take a proper look. Hmm, "Setxa etas mundi", "Folium CXCVII". Can it be? Yes it is! Two leaves from the 1493 first edition of Liber Chronicarum - the Nuremberg Chronicle to you and me - beautifully hand coloured AND containing one of the first known printed depictions of a spectacle wearer.

Successful book hunting!

Mike Goodenough

"Objects are concealed from our view, not so much because they are out of the course of our visual ray as because we do not bring our minds and eyes to bear on them ..." Henry David Thoreau.

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