When choosing a piece of writing to work with over the next few months, I decided I was on the hunt for a true story of an adventure. The Cruise of the Fleur-De-Lys in the Ocean Race was the book that I ultimately chose, and though it is short in length, it has plenty of character. It is not a book that one would describe as extremely weathered and old, but it has many distinct features, of which I find intriguing, that might not be a common occurrence in many other books.
The book was published in the year 1905 by a private printing company in New York, which indicates that, most likely, not many copies of the book were sold. The content of the book is very simple and straightforward, which allowed my eyes to immediately shift to the unique attributes acquired through usage and aging. The outside of the book presents nothing but a title in bright gold font, and the rest of the exterior is a soft blue color which allows the shining title to snatch your attention. There is no other writing on the front cover, back cover, or binding, and this minimalist arrangement caught my eye because of its simplicity.
The first thing that caught my eye was the faded outline of another book on the front cover of the sailing tale. This was most likely from some extended period of where the book experienced little use as it was was left out for leisure reading in an area, as someone’s personal unused plaything, where it was not moved from its position. The book was abandoned during this time to lay somewhat exposed, and sat collecting dirt and dust over its unprotected surface.
This period of little-use however was not how the book has undergone the entirety of its journey so far. The edges along the outside of the book told me that, along with this restful period, the book has
been through a great deal of use. The outside edges are slightly frayed and dirtied from curious hands, and the spine along the back of the book is extremely flexible, most likely from repetitive opening. The inside pages of text are slightly yellowed from age, occasional pages have found themselves slipping away from the binding. Some occasional pages have slight tears along their bottom edges from aggressive or expedited turning of the pages.
The book itself is filled with photographs of the actual race, and each of the illustrations are printed on a different, sturdier, style of paper. This type of paper was not as flexible as the typed pages, and several of the images found their way from the binding over time. Now they are simply resting within the book, only being held by the pressure of their surrounding pages. In the interior, each illustration is left blank on the back side. In addition to these many blank faces, each page of writing is filled with only the straightforward telling of the race, along with the page number. There is no mention of
the author or the title of the book along the typed pages within, and this directs all of the readers attention to the explanation of the journey at hand, especially when presented with detailed photographs of the experience.
One of my most favorite aspects of this story is in the last few pages. After detailed descriptions of many occurrences during the race, such as things as simple as weather and events as violent as a collision that lead to the destruction of a bannister, the author decided to add a different type of visual representation. The book is filled with data on positions each day as well as describing the general route of the boat, but this does not necessarily provide an enthralling read. One of the last pages of the book is a small fold out map that shows the route that the boat took in a more visual manner. This little map has an edge that has seen many more fingers, and been put through much more folding, than the pages which precede it. It is not necessarily a
detailed representation, but I found that the previous part of the book was meant to represent detail, while this was meant to tie the images of the journey together with a bow in the readers mind.
I am looking forward to exploring this book in more detail in the coming months because a piece of text illustrates more than simply its writing. The physical attributes of a text, inside and out, reveal a history of experiences and usage that describe journeys not entirely related to literary content. A hand-written inscription, a fold, even a slight tear can disclose pieces of past experiences. Over time a piece of writing collects additions to its physical appearance through environmental factors and physical use that have the ability to remind of reader of its past. This concept fascinates me, and I am eager to delve into more of the physical, as well as literary, elements of this warn down, sky-blue, little book.