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PRIVATE31 001The vicarious life of the armchair traveler!

What is it that makes us sink back in that comfortable chair with a travel book? Of course, we all know that a good read puts the mind at rest so we can settle in without effort required, and open a travel book that transports us into a different realm. Does it matter if the story goes back 50 years or 500 years at that point? I don’t think it does. The writer’s words, we expect, will take us places we might not have visited.

We let our minds go back and pretty soon we are engrossed in train rides or walking in a desert at 120 degrees, and getting up to turn down the AC to get cool because we know it will be a long, long imaginary walk. Fantastic this ability to imagine a place without seeing the actual image the author describes in the minutest detail!

Never mind that the pizza will be delivered, and we get up to pay or pour ourselves a cold drink, having gulped down the first one we poured before we opened the book. What transforms in our mind? What takes place? How many colors do we see, and how can we not hear the bell ring for the pizza delivery?

Here is such a book. The green book binders cloth is very nicely offset with the raised printing in the gold printed vignette and the top of the pages are gilt. Below is shown what the endpapers look like, followed by the first plate illustrated by the author and the title page. All in all, a well printed book, Pacific Shores from Panama by Ernest Peixotto, as we have come to expect from Charles Scribner’s Sons and published at $2.50 in 1913 dollars, a not inexpensive purchase for the average reader.

Is it the sum of some previous experiences of standing on a high ladder that makes us cringe looking down into the ravine? Did we really walk over that rope bridge in the Himalayan mountains? Could it be the seducing flowery language of the author when he describes a motionless sky with a pale blue-golden color turning into a crimson rose in the early evening hours? Is it something that looks like a Seventeenth Century painting we saw last month in that museum exhibition? Association and explanation going hand in hand and from page to page. What a treat!