I worked one summer in the McGill University Archives. Their offices are in the basement, and underneath them, in sub-basements that could equally function as dungeons, are the physical archives. There’s accounting ledgers the size of small cars down there, tomes and tomes so ancient and enormous you understand that once when people said things like “weighty tomes” they meant it in the most literal sense because some of those books were easy 40-pounders, you had to be careful you didn’t strain your back. Every trip downstairs was like escaping to a dimly lit, Dickensian dimension; the air down there was still and seemed otherworldly—as though all that history emanated with energy and/or was casting a spell.
Upstairs in the offices, I worked in a common room with five or six others, including a man from Newfoundland. He had moved to Montreal as an undergrad, oh, maybe twenty years earlier, and never left. Although he harboured no aspirations to write books, he loved both to read and collect them. I found it curious that the books he liked to read and the books he liked to collect were not one and the same. He read genre fiction (fantasy and sci-fi), but he collected books based on design.
He was trying to complete certain series within the Everyman’s Library Collection, classical reprints published by Dent (London) and Dutton (New York) between 1906 and 1982. In particular, he collected books from The Ravilious Era (1935-1952), named after Eric Ravilious, the designer who gave the books their starkly simplified, modern design: a single colour decorated with an abstract wood knot. I guess my former co-worker, the bearded reader from Newfoundland, must have got through to me because I wouldn’t have noticed these books, if he hadn’t given me the spiel on why they were so special. The two pictured below are mine, and are the only ones I have. There's a whole subculture out there still hunting for these things, and they must do pretty good work because these things aren't always easy to find. The famous Everyman motto, printed on all of the books of this era, is (as above) "Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, In thy most need to go by thy side." I swear to God that, like the McGill archives, these books cast some sort of spell. They are just a bunch of reprints, but you can't help wanting to stare at them and you never really want to put them away.