As an object it’s exquisite, but I can’t decide whether it’s the smell or the feel of it which is more beautiful. The smell is of old leather which has matured for 130 years. The feel is of soft, warm, worn calf-skin. The book has finely tooled binding embossed with a leaf in each corner and with gilt edging to the paper. The whole is a book by John Ruskin published in 1882 with original plates drawn by the author, some of which are hand-coloured.
The book is Proserpina, which has the wonderful sub-title “Studies of wayside flowers while the air was yet pure among the Alps and in the Scotland and England which my father knew”.
I ordered the book through High Barn Books of Gressingham, Lancs, via AbeBooks. The AbeBooks website, which is essentially a directory of second hand bookshops, gave me a choice of 349 copies of Proserpina, ranging in price from a paperback copy for £3.26 to a first edition for £492. I ordered my leather-bound first edition, slightly scuffed, sight unseen, at £45. It’s without a doubt the best thing I’ll buy all year.