Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Care: Lending Books

How hard, when those who do not wish
To lend, that's lose, their books,
Are snared by anglers; folks that fish
With literary hooks;

Who call and take some favourite tome
But never read it through;
They thus complete their set at home,
By making one at your.

Behold the bookshelf of a dunce
Who borrows; never lends;
Yon work, in twenty volumes, once
Belonged to twenty friends.

     When will I learn? Books lent are never returned.
     A generalization, I know. But the fact of the matter is that of the last seventeen books I've lent to friends, they've either not returned them; or, when asked for their return the borrowers became surly. What gives with this? Do I look naive? Am I perceived as bankrolling another's library collection? Is it assumed I won't miss the book?

     When I lend a book to a friend who has complimented the contents of my personal library, I do so with a generosity of spirit. Inwardly, I smile on his/her taste, interests, acumen, and above all the desire to know more. This is "spreading the wealth" at its finest. I lend. He/She will return. But in effect, I've said "au revoir," "adios," "arrivederci," or "sudie" (if you're Lithuanian).
     I realize there have been times I, too, borrowed a book. I took it home, and made sure it didn't get lost in the shuffle of my volumes. I  began to read it, and life took over: other needs, must do's, and ought to's (not to mention reading priorities) set in, and before I knew it the borrowed book became part of my collection. Three come to mind, and I'll confess their titles: The Etruscans, 1066 And All That, and Dumbth. I remember the fateful days their owners handed the books to me. I've since lost contact with the rightful guardians, and haven't a clue where they live. Borrowed volumes occupy my shelves, and if I'm not able to return them does this make me a biblioklept? If so, Mea culpa!

     I've come up with a watertight plan for not lending out books, or for having lent books returned. If you, too, share my problem––feel free to borrow from it.
     - I NO longer lend books. Rather, I jot the title/author/publishing year and date on a slip of paper, and tell the requestor to check it out at their friendly Indie Bookstore or Library.
     - If I break the above rule, I affix a bookplate or Ex Libris to the inside front cover or title page of the book to be borrowed. My bookplates are simple with a heading of From the Library of,  under which I'm able to write my name (indelible ink) on a provided line. More elaborate or decorative bookplates can be found, and some chide the recipient to return the book, as in: Steal not this book for fear of shame/For here you see the owner's name.
     A Japanese bookplate dating back to 1470 (cited by James P. Keenan) carried an especially powerful warning:     To steal this book closes the gates of heaven,
                                  And to destroy it opens the gates of hell.
                                  Anyone who takes this book without permission
                                  Will be punished by all the gods of Japan.

     After that, I have the borrower place his right hand on the Family Bible to swear to the book's return in a specified amount of time.
     Or, I'll have the borrower pledge his first-born son, car, house, or some other object of desire by me, the lender.
     If any or all of the above fails, I can chose to forget about the lapse, ratchet down the worth of the borrower, and buy a replacement, hoping against hope that what I lent was not a first edition or autographed copy.
     If I am the borrower––well, let me assure you, that the prospect of having a red-lettered sign hung around my neck announcing I am a BIBLIOKLEPT––is enough for me to return the book, pronto.

Am I alone in these matters? Have your books been lent out never to be seen again? How did you resolve it?

*a singular pronoun will be used from this point forward.