Reading: David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates, Karen C. C. Dalton — Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II: From the Early Christian Era to the “Age of Discovery”, Part 1: From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood

I’m in St. George’s as usual, picking up some books. Once in a while I ask if one of the traumatically expensive books on my list might be got for a less harrowing price. I ask Jamie if she might have a good price for—I point at the cover art on my phone. “Image of the Black in Western Art,” she says … a pause … “We have it!” “You have it?” “We have it. Paul can bring it in on Monday.” I curse in astonishment. “And we can give you it cheaper than the listed price.” More cursing.

Monday. Paul says, “We have eight of them. I can bring them in if you like.” “Yes!—Argh! My bank account—shut up! Yes!” And the story:

An artist in Berlin used to buy masses of expensive fine art books like this from Paul. He’d order piles and dutifully shuffle it off to his studio. Where it remained unopened. Recently, he sold it all back to Paul. This one he had opened, but barely turned the pages; the others were—are effectively new, their spines yet to do that first opening creak and pop. New, they sell for 100€ each (or 60€ if you want to buy all ten at once). This one cost a mere 50€. Paul said some of the others are even cheaper. I know he’s trying to sell me the whole lot, an attentive dealer supplying a diligent junkie, and like one on the run with their habit, I grin and nod yes.

Not that I need to justify it, but if you put legs on it, it’d be a chair. It’s massive, heavy, beautifully photographed—and more importantly, the quality of the essays is exceptional. Really, really exceptional, Caroline Walker Bynum levels of awesome. And honestly, if Paul didn’t have them, if they weren’t so cheap, I wouldn’t have done this, so going all mystical signs and portents and omens here, that’s not what happened. And it’s got Saint Mauritius of Magdeburger Dom fame on the cover looking well splendid.

(Shall photoblog it when I am organised.)