A Book That is Nice Just to Have

A little-known fact about your humble blogger (though becoming more known as I seem to be publicly embracing it of late) is that I like birds. A lot. And I don’t just mean that I’m into all this bird jewellery that’s fashionable at the moment, but that I feel a particular affiliation and have a more than general interest in our feathered friends.

I have been living in London for almost three months now and have spent a fair amount of that time pointing at winged creatures and saying, ‘Well, just look at that little, erm, birdy.’ I lack the nomenclature, you see. Even the bird knowledge I do possess doesn’t necessarily transfer across the globe—a wagtail in England does not look quite as one does down in Oz.

So after announcing recently that I was going to buy myself an English bird book as a treat, my flatmate asked her dad to bring over their copy, which they suspected had never been used. Having worked on natural history books in the past I thought I knew what to expect—location maps, detailed and technically-correct drawings, some notes on breeding and habitat preferences. And all this I got. But I got it in a barely-touched 1975 edition of The Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe, and it is one of the most delightful books I have had (temporary) possession of in a long time.

There is something special about having an earlier version of a book that is still in print today—especially when it is such an attractive thing. Granted, if it had been stuffed in the pocket of a hiking jacket and carried from campsite to picnic area over the last 36 years it would now not be quite so lovely, though I suspect it would wear the added character well. It is now sitting on my bedside table for in-depth pre-sleep perusal, and on the next trip to the countryside, it will be coming along.

Speaking of the older editions of books, a month or so ago I was shown what is currently my very favourite street in the whole world. Cecil Court is lined with second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, a small street just steps away from the Leicester Square underground, it hides among the hustle and bustle of this crowded touristy area. I was there after closing, so most of the shops now wear an imprint of my nose on their front windows—especially the one that had the old copies of Winnie the Pooh and Enid Blyton’s ‘Adventure’ series on display—and I suspect that soon some of these stores will also have my cash in their tills. Perhaps one of them will have another 1970’s version of my bird-nerd book.

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