Last weekend, Word on the Street happened at Harbourfront in Toronto. The lexically lascivious and philosophically bibulous went on a spree. Many a booth had many a book and many a buyer went on many a page bender, adding liberally to their bibliographic lists without the need of fiscal phlebotomy.
There are several words for such people. Book-lover does fine and has the advantage of using two parts with instant uptake to native anglophones. There is also the more erudite bibliophile. And then there is philobiblist. The Oxford English Dictionary daggers it with the obelisk of “obsolete,” but Roget’s International Thesaurus lists it nonetheless.
A philobiblist is a bibliophile, of course; you recognize the parts – ϕιλο filo, a Greek root for ‘love’, and βίβλος biblos, meaning ‘book’. The concatenation traces back to Greek too, ϕιλόβιβλος. I leave it up to you to decide for yourself whether that Greek form or the English philobiblist looks more like flipping through a book, but for me the English has more of a paged look.
You might assume, given the repleteness of my own bookshelf, that I loaded up and left loaded down. In fact, I bought never a book there this year. I seldom have time for fiction, and my reading of nonfiction books start to finish is mostly in service of paid editorial work. And no one was selling great stacks of reference works, which are my real temptation. No, I just walked around with a 60-year-old camera and burned moments of hands and books onto film.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Whoever “they” are, they’re wrong. There is no exchange rate. How many dances are worth a recipe? How many notes of music can be translated to a floorplan? How many maps are worth a poem, or vice versa? Sure, words and pictures alike can cost or pay money, but they can cost and pay time, too, and here you see captured in two thousandths of a second what would take more than mere minutes to put imperfectly in words… and it goes the other way too. So to the exchange rate aphorizers, I shoot out my lips and make a mocking motion on them with my fingers, and the fabulously flabby sound I make is like “philobiblist.”