Saturday, January 07, 2006

Death becomes it

To my madly gleeful delight, my Christmas present from the inimitable H arrived today. She'd had it shipped on the 22nd, so I'd started to entertain baroque worries that one of the Evil Scamming Postmen had scarpered with it. Although in this case a postman with special interests in interwar illustration.

It is one of the Ravilious lithographs from High Street. It is my favourite lithograph from High Street, 'Letter Makers', which shows a shop which makes signs. Its loveliness is completely untransferable to jpg, but here it is anyway. H and I have whiled away a happy half-hour considering how it ought to be mounted and framed.

Of course, this whole thing makes the bookseller who sold it guilty of bibliocide -- it was once a page in a book. H is an accessory for buying it, and I am an accessory before the fact for being so in love with it as to sway H's moral fortitude. As a minute with google will tell you, there are many kinds of bibliocide: bibliocide by cataloguing, by banning, by burning. But the most commercial of these is bibliocide as a result of the victim's organs being more valuable than the whole body -- almost always the artwork, but sometimes the text as well. The lithographs in High Street are so valuable that in spite of the extortionate prices on intact copies, the killing you could make by razoring the lithographs out of it and selling them separately puts that into the shade.

Here's the thing. I'm never going to own an intact copy of High Street. (I know someone who does. Sometimes I plan ram-raids of this person's house. And not just for the Ravilious). But even if I did own a copy, that really wouldn't be that special ... except for the lithographs. If ever something was written to be a vehicle for the illustrations, this is it. As H put it, it was published by Country Life, for god's sake.

So I'm going to reserve my wrath for booksellers flogging illuminated pages out of 14th century French breviaries and the woodcuts and etchings out of period descriptions of the English countryside. High Street was born to be dismembered. I think my member will look lovely in a double cream mount ...

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