D’Il Mio Libro Piccolo: Dickens’ Venice

When I was in Venice in October, wandering the rainy streets aimlessly as though trapped – and with no desire to escape – in a very beautiful and perfectly unique maze, my travel companions and I came across a truly delicious book shop called Charta Venezia. Their merchandise is comprised of incredible works of art: old editions of classic texts bound, in the “art of new Venetian bookbinding,” in the most ornate and gorgeous covers I have ever seen. They run anywhere from 200 euros to 5,000, so all I did was drool (doing my best not to get that or the rain from my jacket sleeves onto any of those antique, leafy, full-of-wonder pages).

I did find a little handmade journal that had been marked down, so I decided to buy it and use it to record all of my favorite passages from the books that I read. My own personal collection of beautiful literary treasures to be admired and enjoyed on a smaller scale. I thought it fitting to start it with a chilling description of the city of Venezia from Charles Dickens’ 1846 Pictures from Italy:

“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always. Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress.

Thus it floated me away, until I awoke in the old market-palace at Verona. I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”

A magical little passage that, when I read it still, makes me feel like I’m back in that mysterious, almost unreal place, standing over a canal on a little bridge under my umbrella watching the gray water dance and swirl about the ancient sinking bricks.

Since purchasing il mio libro piccolo, and writing down the Dickens passage, I haven’t been the best about keeping a faithful record of all of my favorite lines as I find them. I have this problem when I read that I get too excited and don’t want to stop reading to get up, find a pen and my little book and write anything down. As a result, there are many sparkling and colorful and deeply, personally affecting bits of writing that I will never see again and will doubtfully ever remember.

So, I will begin sharing here some of what I find, in part to motivate myself to continue recording them, but mostly because I love to bring attention to these little gems. Those moments when you come across a collection of words that makes your breath stop for just a second, and you have no choice but to read it a few times over and let it cover you, become you, change you and brighten the colors in which you see the world – these are why I read.

And it’s nice to keep those moments in one very beautiful and perfectly unique little book.


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"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" -Henry James, The Art of Fiction
July 2008
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