I picked this book up in an antique bookstore in Tokyo. I bought it mostly for the title, expecting a history of censorship, which is a topic I’ve always been interested in. What I got was more literally interpretation of enemies. Blades covers fire, water, vermin and dust as if they are free thinking enemies actively planning the destruction of books.
His focus is entirely on the books as items that carry knowledge and not as special items in themselves. He says, “The value of books, as of other things, may be superstitiously overrated. We are accustomed to speak of them as if they were in themselves the wisdom, or the knowledge, or the genius, of which they are, in fact, only the receptacles.”
Here is where he and I disagree. I much enjoy books as things I can hold, smell and feel as much as I enjoy the knowledge in them. I can imagine that Blades would really love the electronic readers of the future. But I’m sure that he and I would disagree on many things as he feels that women have no place in a library. He either thinks women don’t value the knowledge in books or we are so simple minded that we would damage them in our pursuit cleaning. The only people he holds in less esteem than women is children.
Overall it’s an easy and interesting read just to see how books were seen and cared for in the past. There are some interesting mentions in it about rich collectors keeping their books in the floor, or people finding books in fish, or even using them as toilet paper.
This book has gone through tons of reprints since it’s original release. However, I can’t guarantee that any of them contain the prints by Louis Gunnis and H.F. Butler.
These prints are really the neatest part of this book, even neater than the fact that my copy appears to have been printed in 1896. The age of this copy can be seen clearly in the sight molding of the pages which I’m sure would have Blades rolling over in his grave.