books on holiday

R. de Salis, photographer. London Library book on vacation. August 2007, Morea, Greece.

Now here is a nice project.  This enigmatic photo is of a book from the London Library, written by Patrick Leigh Fermor who recently died.  The book is his 2003 Words of Mercury, which I gather in 2007 Fermor took on holiday to Morea in Greece.

In 1933 Fermor walked to Constantinople, carrying Horace's Odes and the Oxford Book of English Verse.  During WWII and in the SOE he was posted to Crete and conducted wholly novelistic underground operations eventually made into a movie starring Dirk Bogarde.  This is a kind of British life I'm not sure exists much any more – or at least isn't heroised in quite the same way as it was throughout the twentieth century.  

Books on holidays: a chance to fade in the sun for a bit, a break from the dim stacks.  And books do travel: a friend who had done his three year sentence at the University of Manitoba for his BES took a year out working on a fishing boat off the west coast.  He arrived in London to start at the AA, carrying with him a Laurence Durrell book borrowed from the Vancouver Island Regional Library branch in Tofino.  As my father was the director of this regional library system and used an honour-based borrowing system for all 30 branches (you didn't have a library card, you just signed your name; he came from a Patrick Leigh Fermor world) the arrival of this book in my one-up one-down in South Kensington was completely magical.  I doubt it left London, Tony certainly didn't. 

The book had returned to its site of publication, better travelled than most people.