Lawrence Clark Powell

Over Christmas I was doing some research for my Spring classes and I started down the road of Book Studies. Why didn't anyone tell me about this specialized program?

To think there's a bigger theoretical model out there on how publishing, library science, literature and history work together. I found Book Studies while looking for books on author contracts! While searching for other books I re/discovered the work of Lawrence Clark Powell. I must have known about him/ read him at some point and completely forgotten about it.

His writing is so familiar; maybe it's just one of those moments when I've found an author who has managed to nail down the thoughts I have as I prepare class notes, sit in cataloging class, work on some periodicals. . .

I'm slowly making my way through Clark's oeuvre. This week ILL hand-delivered one of the books I requested (talk about service!). The thin volume was Books are Basic: The Essential Lawrence Clark Powell which is actually a collection of memorable aphorisms. At first I was less than enthralled. Silly me, in my rush to request a selection of Clark's work I overlooked the LCSH for the book which identified it as maxims. But then on the train ride home I needed something to read for the last 10 minutes of my commute and cracked open the book.

There are some great morsels that I probably would not have found in his other writing since the book also collects quotes from his articles for Library Journal and his writing on California and travel, books I probably would have ignored.

Some of my favorites:

  • Read by sunlight, lamplight, or as Lincoln did, firelight, the books is still the best way man has found to record and transmit his knowledge."~ A Passion For Books (1958)

  • One good book leads to a dozen others.~ Books in My Baggage (1960)

  • If you want to maintain your security and self-assurance, stay away from certain books. Don't open that Little Package, if you are afraid of being blown sky-high, or lulled to dreams, or dazzled by beauty. Pandora's box had nothing on a book.~ The Little Package (1964)

  • Bookmen know that the really rare books are the ones nobody wants but you.~ Books in My Baggage (1960)

  • We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed; it is the same as it has always been, since Callimachus administered the great library in Alexandria.~ Books in My Baggage (1960)

  • We rarely discover a book on own own. We read about it, or are told of it by a friend, a librarian, a bookseller, or a reviewer. Help is needed to discern the pearls of literature in the trash-heap of our age of permissive print.~ California Classics (1971)

  • A library should have as few rules as possible, someone (not a librarian) once said, and break them all whenever necessary.~ The Little Package (1964)

More to come as I make my way through the literature. . .


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