Books in boxes at a book sale.

February 21, 2020, by UoN School of English

Old Books vs. New

I have always been somebody who loves nothing better than a brand new book. As well as the excitement of fresh reading material, I love the clean-cut edges, the crisp smell of the pages, and the feeling of a factory-made object not yet sullied by human hands. A controversial opinion, I admit, but one which has been challenged by my recent work with the UoN’s Manuscripts and Special Collections department.

A shelf of old books.


There is a certain quality about books which have been handled by so many people, imbued with so much history over their lives that the evidence is physically imprinted onto the page. Books with softened corners, annotations and the odd inky thumbprint exemplify literature in its most tangible form, and there is an undeniable thrill in the realisation that the book you are holding has been read by hundreds before you.

On a more superficial note, vintage leather-bound volumes do look fantastic when lined up together on the shelf, and can lend a certain prestige to the bookshelf not quite attained by a row of the latest paperback thrillers. But, depending on your attitude towards books as visual objects in the home, you may appreciate that newer books declare their titles boldly and clearly on their spines, whereas older books often require the curious guest to peer closer at faded gold lettering.

A shelf of books that are all colour coordinated, creating a gradient from red to yellow to green.


Given the choice, I still prefer to read new books, with uncracked spines and creamy pale pages, which I can throw in my bag without fear of the cover falling off. But I have a newfound appreciation for older books, demanding a certain amount of cautious handling and embodying their description as ‘pre-loved’. Old or new, these books deserve to be read with care and respect, regardless of their physicalities.

Sasha Gardner is a third year English student at the University of Nottingham.

Photo credits: Jason Leung, freddie marriage and Annie Pratt.
Posted in Student Words