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Saint Benedict And The Way To Treat Books

September 30, 2009

I am deep into “A History of Reading” by Alberto Manguel, and am quite taken by the book.  I keep reflecting as I go about other tasks today a mention in the book concerning Saint Benedict.  The reason it resonates, and makes me chuckle, is that when I was a boy I was impressed upon to treat books with care and attention.  I was taught not to ‘break the back’ of a book, and never to dog-ear a page.   The mere idea of writing in one was way out of consideration.  Even today I make notes on paper, and never underline anything between the covers of a book. 

All which leads me to the wonderful quote from Saint Benedict.  At the time of this quote it should be noted, to put this in context, that books were rare, and expensive. 

Saint Benedict prescribed others to  hold “if possible” the books they read “in their left hands, wrapped in the sleeves of their tunic, and resting on their knee; their right hands shall be uncovered with which to grip and turn the pages.”

It is nice to know that the care one should show for books has a long history.

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