When watching the latest film adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’ you may, if you love books, have been impressed by the scene above where they show Gatsby’s library. I know I was.
The question then that one ponders is how does one get books like this? I don’t mean raiding the contents sales of 19th century English country houses (though that is one idea for older titles) nor do I mean buying second hand collectable first editions (though that too is fun) - I mean how does one buy NEW books that would look good in Gatsby’s library. If you’ve been to most bookstores selling new books, you will know what I mean. You can’t buy the leather-bound beautiful books one sees in films lining the shelves of beautiful libraries at the local Barnes & Noble or Indigo store. What you will find is sets like Penguin Classics in paperback. Great for reading and undergrad studies at university, but not the long-term decorative marvels one sees in mahogany bookcases in films like The Great Gatsby.
Now I am a bit of a second-tier Gatsby. I have a personal library of a couple thousand volumes, but most are not library-grade editions. I like them to be sure, but here is a photo showing different book bindings from my library. I am going somewhere with this - bear with me:
On the far right we see a standard paperback Penguin Classics edition of Dante. If you read and re-read books, or loan them to friends to read, paperbacks start to look well used. One solution to the wear and tear that public libraries use is to have paperbacks rebound as hardcover books. Companies specialize in this work for libraries. Second from the right you will see a Penguin Classics edition of Dangerous Liaisons that has been rebound by one of these companies. They put the pages into a hardcover, then stick the front, back and spine covers from the paperback onto the hardcover and laminate the covers to the hardcover boards. Firms charge about $8 per book to do this conversion. The result is a book that can be lent out and won’t show damage from multiple readings like a paperback will, and spills or rain on the laminated cover can just be wiped off. It doesn’t make the book look like it belongs in a Gatsby library though. Second from the left we see a private bindery’s custom job of printing a personal memoir (in this case tales of my trip to Paris) and binding it in leather. This creates a look appropriate for a great library. On the far left is an example of a leather-bound book by the Easton Press, a bookseller of leather bound new books. They sell book series by subscription (100 Greatest Books series for example). Their quality is certainly up to scratch for an elegant library full of leather-bound books, and because they print many books per press run, their book costs are not very high for a leather-bound book. However, one is limited to only the books they republish.
So, I was exploring the Great Gatsby linked Plaza hotel in New York - their 2nd floor bar for example:
While there I noticed a solution to this very problem for Gatsby-types who frequent the Plaza: the 2nd floor Assouline bookstore’s private bindery section. Here they will bind any new book you like in a fine leather binding. This is different that having a bindery print and bind a book in leather like I did with my Paris Memoirs. Here the bindery is not printing the book, but is taking a new book you purchased and converting the binding to a Gatsby standard. So unlike with Easton Press, here you are not limited to a selection of titles, but are free to have any book you want rebound in fine leather. Here are two pictures of the display in the Assouline store:
Vogel Bindery does the actual binding - a highly respected firm.
Any book made to Gatsby standard and shipped anywhere in the world. Impressive.
So the question now may be what is the in between: suppose one wants to browse through a bookstore that has beautiful hardcover new books, but they are not expensive made to order leather bound ones, but regular hardcovers displayed in a store that is beautiful to look at and shop in - if one can’t do Gatsby’s library, at least one can shop in a store that tries to approach it. Fortunately, right around the corner from the Plaza hotel at 31 W. 57th St is just such a store: the Rizzoli bookstore. I love shopping for books here, and take a look at this photo and you can see why:
Now THIS is a bookstore - all three floors of it. Wow. This is how a bookstore should be - I could spent hours shopping in here (and I do).
So there you have it - how to find books Gatsby himself would be proud to own, and also how to improve the shelving durability of your paperbacks without spending a fortune. If you need recommendations of paperback conversion companies that public libraries use to make paperbacks into hardbacks, drop me a line, or ask your local librarian.
Some people say printed books are going to be phased out in favor of ebooks. I certainly hope not. If it does happen, books will exist as collectors items in used book shops, and great libraries everywhere - perhaps in yours, too. People like holding books in their hands - touching them, caressing them…
(I’m bad - LOL)
Music and movies went digital easily with consumers because one doesn’t touch and caress those old CDs and DVDs in quite the same way - you put those discs in a player to enjoy them. Books are a tactile experience for many readers, you hold them throughout the experience you share with them, hence why they are still with us in the digital age going forward. That is my opinion anyway.
An extra post today for Rachel (“cinderhellapissed”) with another view of The Great Gatsby (Easton Press edition) only this time out of the bookshelf and resting, opened, on a leather armchair supported by the wood housing of my Replogle ‘Statesman’ world globe to reveal the gold tooling on the book’s covers. Lighting by daylight coming in through the window
A very fine job Easton Press did with this Fitzgerald set. Very touchable :)