Books of the Hour
How does one distinguish a good book from a bad book? The oft-quoted English author and critic John Ruskin had this to say:
“For all books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, and the books of all time.”
But while the above quotation is quite well-known, Ruskin goes on to say:
“Mark this distinction—it is not one of quality only. It is not merely the bad book that does not last, and the good one that does. It is a distinction of species. There are good books for the hour, and good ones for all time; bad books for the hour, and bad ones for all time.”
—John Ruskin, 1891
Following are a few examples.
A 15th Century Book, a gift from Ruskin
Below, from Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New York is an image from a rare book given by Ruskin to Rose La Touche in 1860.
The text was written in Latin on parchment, using silver for the text and gold for the rubrics. It was made in France in the latter half of the 15th century (1450-1499).
A Notable Gift
Ruskin’s gift of the 15th century book was “bound in modern times in a leaf from an antiphonal.” The text was written on parchment in Gothic script. It is believed to be from England in the 15th century. The use of the square notes and 4 lines in the staff are also indicators of age. That’s my kind of wrapping paper!
A 21st Century Picture Book as “Book of the Hour”
Flashing forward a few hundred years, here is an award-winning book from French publisher Albin Michel which made waves at the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
In Conclusion: Books of the Hour versus Books of all Time?
It’s a matter of time and discernment.