Wedding gift list

Begoña and I got married in October 1988 and put our wedding list in the Railowsky Bookshop. We liked the name, we liked the image its promoters had chosen as the emblem, and we liked its books. We thought it would be a way of supporting this enthusiastic and courageous business (a bookshop with an exhibition room, specialising in photography), which had recently opened and was located in the neighbourhood where I had spent my childhood. Also, we must admit, it seemed like a quick way to get our hands on a series of artifacts —books— which we considered (and still do) highly valuable and as necessary as the most useful household appliance.

To live, we needed books. Books that would show us how people lived before us; books to discover the meaning of all words; books that would tell us what books we must read and what works of art we must rush to visit. It is possible that, at that time, I had even wanted to be able to distinguish an Ionic column from a Doric or Corinthian one; I am not sure, but perhaps it seemed important. Above all, we also wanted to learn how to cook tasty and varied dishes. In summary, we needed books as soon as possible to learn everything, so that our journey through life would be more like jumping over a puddle: a pas de deux, performed with the grace and lightness of dancers.

I remember many books from our wedding list: A History of Private Life, edited by Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby (a two-volume work);  Diccionario manual e ilustrado de la lengua española (Manual and Illustrated Dictionary of the Spanish Language) by the Royal Spanish Academy (six volumes); The Pickwick Papers by Dickens (three volumes in paperback); Historia del arte valenciano (History of Valencian Art), edited by Vicente Aguilera Cerni (six volumes); History of World Literature, edited by Martín de Riquer and José María Valverde (ten volumes); Historia ilustrada de las formas artísticas (Illustrated History of Art Forms; twelve volumes in paperback); the Culinary Encyclopedia by the Marquise of Parabere (two volumes, one for savory dishes and the other for sweet ones: The Complete Kitchen, and Confectionary and Pastries).

Our friend Teresa gifted us a book that she chose herself from the bookshop and which was not included in the list: Paris de nuit (Paris by Night) by Brassaï, a beautiful edition with pages entirely printed in black, in which the only whites came from light bulbs, lampposts, and illuminated signs.

We have no doubt learned a few things since we celebrated our wedding, and one of them is that life is not kind to readers. Children who jump to avoid a puddle (an act which has forever immortalised the character who serves as a logo for Railowsky), or to avoid burning their feet on hot sand, should know that their future will involve constantly jumping. There are many reasons to jump and few occasions to read in peace. Unfortunately, as I now realise in this retrospective exercise, we have not found the tranquility necessary to read many of the books carefully and thoroughly; some of them have only been opened on a handful occasions. During all this time we have been rather busy producing our own books.

However, I can say I have read The Pickwick Papers by Dickens, and it is, by chance, one of the books Begoña is reading at the moment. And naturally, because of our work, we frequently open certain books to look up information. This is how I came to discover, many years later, that in Volume 3 of the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary, there is one page missing, while another is duplicated. Therefore, all the words between ‘escandalosa’ and ‘espalda’ are missing from this book. Even until today, when I wanted to write down the dimension of the gap with more precision, I knew some ‘e’ words were missing, but I could not remember exactly where; only that if the word I was interested in locating began with ‘e’, it was most likely going to be among those left out of the book.

One of the most read and worn books of our wedding gift list is the Culinary Encyclopedia by María Mestayer de Echagüe (Marquise of Parabere). It has also become a scrapbook containing recipes extracted from other books or written by hand. The book of sweets opens with an affectionate speech-dedication (170 words) from our friend May, which has made the sweets even sweeter and the work incomparably more nutritious.

We do not have children, but there are books in every room of our house, and in them our beloved silverfish run nervously; some jump like railowskys, others stay put as if they had been caught in a mischievous act, but they are all happy and grateful for the food, distractions, and entertainment we have provided for them and their various generations of offspring.

Vicente Ferrer
Valencia, 15 October 2010

Text written for the 25th anniversary of the Railowsky Bookshop and Photo-Gallery in Valencia. Illustration: B and V’s wedding card. Drawing by Antonio Fernández Molina (1988).