Rare, old, sold out and curious

An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S. Lewis. ‘Who in their right mind,’ he wrote, ‘would not, if they could, retain that restless curiosity, that vivid imagination, that ease for suspending incredulity, that insatiable appetite, that disposition for awe, compassion, and admiration?’

To answer this question we are aided by the intelligent books that the publishing house Media Vaca offers its readers since it was created in 1998 by Vicente Ferrer and Begoña Lobo. Now in its fifth year, with fourteen titles, some of which have been distinguished with Spanish and international awards. For this occasion it seemed appropriate to present an exhibition that shares its name with this accompanying publication: The Secret Life of Books. Books to which could be well applied that string that ranges from rare to curious, which, unfortunately, has been disappearing from bookshops.

Rare books such as that dictionary that brings together 231 words selected by 231 artists who illustrate them and whose works are displayed in the exhibition. Old books with tales by the Brothers Grimm or Jules Renard. Also, sold out, such as Élisée Reclus’ story about a stream that runs into the sea with drawings by Eloar Guazzelli, which readers can colour in if they wish. Curious like the silent I Have No Words —the first book by Media Vaca, work of Arnal Ballester—; or Children’s Literature from A to Z, in which Bernardo Atxaga, alphabet in hand, weaves together a story that begins with Alice and ends with Raymond Queneau’s Zazie. Books which, in short, are a bit of everything, like the 100 Greguerías by Ramón Gómez de la Serna, illustrated by César Fernández Arias. No reader is asked their date of birth. Only, as Lewis proposes, that they have curiosity, imagination, and the capacity to be awed.

Salvador Albiñana
Rector Peset Hall of Residence

Prologue of the publication issued for the exhibition also titled ‘The secret life of books. Media Vaca: 1998-2003’, presented at the Rector Peset Hall of Residence of the University of Valencia between May and July 2003. (Photograph by Daniel García-Sala).