The Joy of Reprints

I just finished the reprint of The Unprejudiced Palate, one of the "Modern Library Food" series being brought to life by Ruth Reichl.

It was an enjoyable book: food writing, rather than a mere series of recipes. This was a man who truly enjoyed his food (it even costs him a wife!), and I suspect even writing about it was pleasurable for him. Because this was originally published in 1948, the chances of my running into it were slim; as a reprint, more people can enjoy this book (if not the recipes: I rather doubt I'll ever make my own wine or serve sweetbreads or tripe).

I've also recently read a book reprinted by A Common Reader. Several of my childhood favorites have gone out of print (Hugo and Josephine by Martha Gripe springs to mind). The concept of the reprint strikes me as one that should be encouraged more than it appears to be. Yes, some books would only find a few new readers. But others would find a whole new audience that loves them. What better fate for a book?

This year alone I've had the pleasure of introducing students to several of my favorites. Some (like White Ghost Summer) have lived on my shelves for years, bringing me much joy and happiness. Others (like The Great Good Thing) are recent finds. And nothing gives me greater happiness than a student asking not just to read a book, but asking where it can be bought so they can have that book. Sadly, several are not readily available (even on Alibris).

The question is, of course, who ponies up the money and the time and the resources? Do we allow Google to handle it? Quite frankly, despite Google's optimism, I'm not going to read a book on-line, nor do I have the printing equipment that would make downloading and printing for myself an option. So we rely on reprint houses, and second-hand bookstores to make these time-treasured books available to the general public for general consumption.

Would that there were more of these out there. Perhaps not all of them will appeal to me (or you) but enough will. If I win Lotto, I know what part of my winnings will go for: starting a reprinting press.

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