A Revival of Reading
Shall we borrow or shall we buy books? In impressive fashion the British are this month raising the issue by a movement for the revival of reading on the purchase basis. They have found that in a population of 45,000,000 there are not more than a few hundred thousand people who actually buy the books they read, while of the remainder there is reason to believe that a considerable proportion do not habitually even borrow books for reading. And it is to move the public to a better showing that a "national book fortnight" is being observed. The brunt of the co-operative effort has been shouldered by the publishers' and booksellers' associations, but the newspapers have also joined the movement and for the first two weeks in December hundreds of appeals will go forth "intended to quicken public interest in the use of books for reading, for solace and for instruction."
How many of our own hundred million and odd people prefer the "touch-and-go" method in reading to the permanent joys of possession? The question is not idle in a land vastly richer in popular libraries than any of the countries of Europe, Great Britain included. The set-off is that we have a large public nurtured in the tradition of buying; the foreigner who settles in our reading atmosphere finds to his surprise that we purchase as well as borrow books to an extent unknown abroad. The "shelf" movement had its greatest success here; the new cheap editions were nowhere received as enthusiastically as in the United States.
Of course, books have to be borrowed and the institutions which lend them are doing incalculable service. But the value of the home library cannot easily be ex-aggregated. Cicero called a room without books "a body without a soul," and Carlyle tells us that a collection of books is "a real university." Without that collection in sight, ready for use, how beyond the reading of them shall we invoke with Sir John Lubbock, the "crowd of delicious memories, grateful recollections of peaceful home hours after the labors and anxieties of the day? How thankful we ought to be," he adds "for these inestimable blessings, for this numberless host of friends who never weary, betray or forsake us!" --Boston Herald.