When Charles Lamb invented his category of "books which are not books", it probably did not enter his mind that a peculiar specimen with whole chapters in turn smudged and crisp, would later apply for admission. Very likely, if he could see one of them, he would be at a loss to explain the evident enthusiasm felt for the chapters so devastatingly conned. But to all who frequent Widener these volumes are common place. They are witness to a species of intellectual privation.
This privation is the fruit of faulty reading assignment. Too often smudged excerpts from many and sundry volumes comprise the reading matter of a course. Although each excerpt yields some knowledge of a topic, and the accumulation of them imparts the main facts of the course, the student does not grow wise from perusal of these smudges. The crisp pages, many times outnumbering their much-read brethren, cramp his comprehension within the confines of the smudges.
Thus the instructor's instinct bidding him to "cover the ground" at all cost, and his own epigrammatic judgment, amount to disregarding his printed colleagues. A student hardly learns to know their faces or to choose among their viewpoints. The executive method of reading assignment devitalizes authoritative printed knowledge and bars the seeker from access to pre-professorial wisdom. It is a method which is fortunately yielding somewhat to the optional reading list. In time attractive lectures on sources may signify that the teacher is only a guide.