Yesterday I wrote a post in this space about the passing of my dog, and I opened with a picture of my dog and a quote about how regrettably short a dog’s life can be. I’ve always been one who enjoys a good quote, something so profound that I wish I had said it myself. And the search for such a quote is always enlightening, in one way or another.
The book shown above dates to 1955, the same year that Little Richard went into a recording studio in New Orleans and changed the world with “Tutti Frutti.” Whoever purchased this book in hardcover that year may have paid four or five dollars for it, but they received centuries worth of insights and wise words, all of them arranged by subject in an appendix that makes finding a topical quotation an easy task. Perhaps not as easy as going to the Google and entering a keyword or two, but in the mid 1950s nobody could expect any better than this.
My daily routine, on the days when I’m working from home to help flatten the curve, is to pick up my Bartlett’s, page around in it for a few minutes, find something to fit whatever suits my mood on that day, and share it with those who keep track of my work hours. It sure beats having to pile into a car, drive 45 minutes on city streets and an interstate highway to get to work, and hope that there’s still space available in the parking lot when I get there. Paging through a book for something I can put into an email feels like a pleasure, compared to all of that.
And on some days, I’ll even have a few minutes to learn something on the Google about the person who the quote was attributed to, which never fails to intrigue me on some level. With so many fascinating people, and all the thought-provoking things they either said or wrote through the centuries, I feel as though I got my money’s worth (whatever amount I spent on it) for this book a long time ago.
There’s an app for the iPhone that offer’s Bartlett’s for the sum of $3.99. That’s much more than I paid for my physical hard copy of the book, and whenever an app has more 1 star reviews than anything else, it’s a pretty good sign that purchasing the app is probably a waste of money. My advice, for what it’s worth, is that if you ever come upon a copy of Bartlett’s, whether at a used book store or especially at an estate sale (assuming we ever see them again), pick it up and spend whatever the seller is asking for. Few investments will ever pay off as much, if only in an intellectual sense.
NOTE: The tile of this post is taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Letters and Social Aims” (1876). Have I read the whole thing? Of course not. But Bartlett’s makes it so that I don’t have to, either.