This little piece was originally posted to my Facebook page this past February:
More proof (like we needed any) that old books totally rule:
Okay, so I wasn’t actually looking for Thomas Paine stuff in the Ypsi Library, but as luck would have it, something of Mr. Paine’s came to hand (happens to me all the time …) – an 1860 edition of The Political Works of Thomas Paine published in New York by one Calvin Blanchard at 76 Nassau Street. My first thought: What is an 1860 edition of Paine’s work doing in the freakin’ general circulation stacks in the Ypsi Library? Second thought: Who cares as long as I can take it home with me?
Upon checking out and examining the volume, my curiosity only grew. The old book was obviously cut around the edges to make the pages even, and then rebound in one of those resilient-but-ugly institutional library bindings (brown, maybe from the 1960s or so?) Inside, a tissue-paper-protected engraving of the author–one that I had not seen before, and a facsimile Paine signature. I felt a little sorry for this book, as the page-trimming had made the margins appear crooked (the page numbers were partially cut off in a few spots), but still–how cool to hold in my very own hands an edition of Paine’s work that was printed just before the Civil War. On the very last page of the book was an ad for “Liberal Books published by Calvin Blanchard (sent by mail postage free)” The list of titles on offer included “Ovid’s Art of Love and amorous works entire” as well as Paine’s Age of Reason, and miscellaneous other heretical stuff: Wollstonecraft, Volney’s Ruins, etc. But the best part was at the bottom of the page, a footnote in what today would be about an 8-point font:
“But why does Blanchard publish such books as Rousseau’s Confessions, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and the Library of Love? those ask who, had THEY planned Nature, would have omitted all but solidity.
“Answer: I. Because Blanchard thinks that KNOWLEDGE IN AMOROUS AFFAIRS is far safer than ignorance. II. Because Blanchard loves Nature throughout. III. Because Blanchard is not ashamed to AVOW both what HE THINKS and what HE LOVES. Enough said?”
This footnote is, without doubt, the single best thing I have read for at least the last month.
Calvin Blanchard, publisher–I salute your awesome.