My library is full of books that I am thrilled to own but have never read. This is not a confession — I feel no remorse. My 1972 edition of ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ has not been opened or touched since I bought it. The book, thick and yellowed and on the cover, the giant squid pulls the Nautilus to the deep blackness of the ocean. Through the portholes, a crew member screams in horror.
I will buy most anything for the cover. A book. DVD. Magazine. Album. My vinyl collection is largely based on the heft of the product, of the beauty of the art. Music is secondary. In the same library is a well aged copy of Marquis De Sade’s ‘Philosophy In The Boudoir’ — paperback edition. Verge of death, pages dried, decayed, withered. Next to this same book is another copy of De Sade’s book, but this one hasn’t been cracked open, but loved just the same. The 2008 Penguin Classics edition of Marquis De Sade’s ‘Philosophy In The Boudoir: Immoral Mentors’ features an amazing cover sleeve from illustrator Tomer Hanuka. (Hanuka wrote an article on his construction of the cover, which you should read. Here’s a LINK.)
The adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has existed as long as I’ve been alive. It’s there as a tired and boring lesson that is used not for books, but for people. It should really go ‘never judge a person by their appearance’ but somehow relating people to books (and onions, in terms of layers) is a thing that society likes to do so I won’t stop anyone, I just won’t abide. I will absolutely judge a book by its cover and people by their content.
If this book was a boring slop of the written language I would still own it, solely for the cover. If a bevy of beautiful items in your home makes you smile then forget what you were told about judging books, movies, or music by their covers. There is no shame in loving only part of a thing.