There are dynamite and wildcats in the prenatal life of a book. Any word as you see it here was first dipped up from a bottle of Stafford’s Jet Black, then hammered out again through a typewriter ribbon, then punched in type on slivers of hot lead. It lived for a while on long galley sheets and was murmured, for syntax only, not for aesthetic ecstasy, in the patient sing-song of the proofreader. It was rammed into soft wax, went bathing in acid, drew to itself sparkling wraith-atoms of copper, strengthened itself for the world (as any idealist must) with heavy backing of alloy, lay down on the bed of a press, was run over by rollers of ink and crushed by huge sheets of paper. How alive they are, those presses! They gesticulate to you. Through the windows you see the white sheets flap to and fro. It is like prisoners waving shirts or kerchiefs to attract attention. Someone’s words are there, impatient for life.
*From the introduction to this anthology:
This little scrapbook was put together during several rainy days, to be printed as a souvenir of the First National Book Fair in November 1936, a festival sponsored by the New York Times and the National Association of Book Publishers. I have purposely avoided the famous golden texts and purple passages of the bibliophile’s evangel. You will not find Emily Dickinsons’s “There is no frigate like a book”, nor Wordsworth’s “Books are a substantial world”, etc; not even the well-loved but now too familiar rubrics from Lamb, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Stevenson, Gissing and the others. Most of the fragments here are contemporary and it was the editor’s pleasure to choose not only “literary” bits but also odds and ends of the trade and technical palaver. The extracts are marked by numbers; each is duly identified in an index at the back. It will sometimes give the reader a pleasant surprise to find the authorship different from expectation.
– Christopher Morley