Im obsessed with Arnold Genthe’s photographs of San Francisco’s Chinatown from the 1890‘s.
His photographies live in a book titled Old Chinatown that was edited in 1909 by Moffat, Yard and Company in New York. The first time I saw the book, was on my Ipad on Kindle. I thought it to be a very conservative book. Since in Kindle you can change the background of the book, I chose it to be yellowish, not only because it would be easier to read, but because I felt it was the proper color to look at a book of the early 1990’s. Passing through the pages, or better, scrolling through the pages, I felt the need to touch the paper, to smell the book and see the magnificent cover in person.
I went to the ICP library and looked for it in the catalogue. I got the call number: TR820.5.U6 .G45 1913, and went to look for it in the shelf that the map pointed to. After a while of looking for the book, and not finding it, I had to ask Liz Sales. She looked for it and told me that it was a rare book. -Yes!, I said to my self. She brought it and gave it to me with a ritualistic air that told me that I had to handle it with care. It was in a blue box that when I opened made my favorite sound, velcro sound. And there it was. A little jewel. The cover, as I thought, was beautiful. A fabric quality and smell I will not forget. I opened it and touched the beautiful paper that feels old and elegant. I really haven’t read the book. William Irving’s text isn’t my curiosity so I kept passing a page after the other until I started seeing Genthe’s photographs.
The quality of the book gives it a presence impossible to describe. Because of books like this is worth to go to libraries. Even if you are not into chinatown or Genthe, this is a MUST SEE book I recommend to anyone.