I just looked up the spelling of “gratuitous” in my freshman English dictionary: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, a Merriam-Webster, based on Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition. Copyright, 1956, the same year I bought it. The spine is held together with clear plastic packing tape. I love this old dictionary.
Maybe you’re wondering (probably not) why I haven’t replaced it, bought a new one, or how I function with a dictionary that is 56 years old.
I muddle through with online help and spell checker, but they don’t give me comfort like my Merriam-Webster. I just can’t quit using it. I wouldn’t even think about throwing it away.
Here’s the thing: there are now just too many words I can’t find in this beloved book, so reluctantly I’ve decided to buy a new dictionary. I won’t abandon my old college dictionary though, because it will remind me how many new words that have been added since my college days.
Besides, books provide comfort. There is something about books, especially old books. I can’t describe it, but I can’t part with them.
I might add that I may not become the owner of a new dictionary soon. I can’t remember how many times I’ve picked up a new one at a bookstore, thumbed it’s pages, scanned the words, put it back, thinking, I have a perfectly good dictionary already. Maybe I’ll buy one another time.
Why is that? What is it about old books that get such a grip on us?