It is with books as it is with men -- a very small number play a great part; the rest are lost in the multitude. - Voltaire
If multitude described the number of books available in the 1700s, I think we need to come out with a new word for the books available today, in all their various formats. I suggest teratude, which, by my own made up definition, means a trillion or so multitudes.
Last Monday I checked Worldometers (world statistics updated in real time) and discovered that there had been 549,284 new book titles published so far this year. Sunday night I checked again—the number increased to 566,188. That’s 16,904 new titles in less than one week’s time. Yikes!
Another surprising statistic according to Worldometers is that the United Kingdom publishes the most titles. The U.S. comes in second. Out of the 78 countries on the list, twenty publish 10,000 or more new book titles per year.
With so many titles to choose from, it boggles my mind that any author is able to sell more than a couple of copies of any one book, no matter how well-written it might be. I am also amazed that some books survive the test of time to become classics. With so many new books covering shelves, it seems that all of the older ones would be delegated to the back shelves and eventually lost for all time.
My bookshelves confirm that somehow not only classics or valuable rare books survive. I have a few books that belonged to my mother and grandmother. They contain advice that is no longer applicable, so their sentimental value is much more than their monetary worth.
For instance, Getting Ready to be a Mother (1922) offers illustrations, such as a photograph displaying a satisfactory maternity corset. There are detailed descriptions on how the new mother must remain in bed for the first week or two, and it stresses the importance of a nurse or other person to help care for the mother and baby six to eight weeks or longer. I don’t know any new mothers afforded this luxury.
A 1932 cookbook For Making Good Things to Eat, extols the virtue of Snowdrift creamy vegetable oil as “better than butter because it is all pure fat,” and “There is more calory (sic) value in snowdrift pound for pound, than in any of the food you cook with it.”
The Modern Method of Preparing Delightful Foods (1927) is a tiny little cookbook by today’s standards, but it devotes an entire chapter to “Napery and its Care,” complete with starching and storing advice.
Through the years pregnancy advice has changed, opinions on fats and calories have been modified, and paper napkins are the norm rather than the exception, still I find a comforting connection to the past when thumbing through these books—and they’re also entertaining.
Have older books survived on your bookshelves? Do they add sentimental or monetary value to your book collection?
Tags: Voltaire, worldometer, snowdrift, napery, corset, new book titles,