In Leigh Fermor’s enchanting walk across Europe, he find islands of great hospitality where he can rest and recuperate from intermittently roughing it.  Remote aristocratic homes which he intimates were often destroyed in the maelstrom of the war that was to engulf the region in the following decade.

Here he finds himself staying with someone to whom he had been given a letter of introduction.  He mentions in passing that he’d lost some books, only to find a precious edition of Horace being replaced from the library.  I liked the description of the book’s leather binding being ‘as bright as grass after rain’.

‘What books? I had named them; when the time came for farewells, the Baron said: ‘We can’t do much about the others but here’s Horace for you.’  He put a small duodecimo volume in my hand.  It was the Odes and Epodes, beautifully printed on thin paper in Amsterdam in the middle of the sixteenth century, bound in hard green leather with gilt lettering.   The leather on the spine had faded but the sides were as bright as grass after rain and the little book opened and shut as compactly as a Chinese casket.’


Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 113

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