The book you see here - or what is left of it - was printed in 1712.
There are many who say that print is dead, and that books are relics of a bygone age. Electronic versions, they say: books on computers or phones or things called Kindles and Nooks. I do not object to the fact that these things exist; books are meant to be read, and if they are to be read on an illuminated screen, that is far better than not being read at all. Good books deserve a wide audience, and one should not quibble about the path they take to reach that audience.
Still, there is something very important about a printed book, even one that has been torn and tattered. A printed book is a physical connection to our past.
Imagine, for a moment, the changes that the world has seen in the three hundred years since this book was printed. Kings and queens have come and gone. Empires have risen and fallen. Try to imagine the path it has taken to the present day. Where was this book when rebels dumped tea into Boston Harbor? It was an old book even then. Where was it when Napolean’s armies made their way across Europe? Where was it when the blitz rained down upon London?
How many owners did this humble little book have? How many ghosts would gaze upon this fragile title page, and think: Once upon a time, that was my book.
An electronic book lacks this physical form. It lacks the very real link to the history that one senses when one holds a printed copy of a book from centuries past.