The old book has seen better days. It was my father’s dictionary. The Winston Dictionary College edition, 1957 published by The John C Winston Company of Philadelphia. I inherited the book after my father passed away but I remember as a child the dictionary was a fixture in our home. There was a special spot reserved for it on the lower tier of one of the end tables in the living room. Neither of my parents was particularly well read so if you were looking for bookcases full of books you wouldn’t find any. Nevertheless, the book was treated as a venerable object and strict regulations applied. If you borrowed the dictionary for homework you were to take it to your room and when finished, return it to its designated place on the lower tier of the end table.
The dictionary was a black hardcover book with 3000 illustrations and an atlas of the world. At the back of the dictionary were several separate sections devoted to subjects like; Signs and Symbols, Foreign Words, Persons and Places and even a Chronological Table giving the Dates of the Chief Events in all Nations of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present. Pretty heady stuff, I thought, but this book never failed to amaze me. Whenever I used it I discovered something new and exciting.
When I was a young boy exploring the differences between young boys and young girls I used my father’s dictionary and discovered the secrets of body parts; such wonders I never knew existed! When I tired of all that nonsense, I would turn to the Atlas of the World and imagine myself a great explorer. With my finger I would trace exotic shipping routes crossing great oceans and visit nation after nation in a single afternoon. When I was much older and away studying at college the book served me well performing its function with great ease and superb clarity. I could always depend on Winston.
And now after fifty years, two marriages and countless homes across the continent the dictionary still remains with me next to my laptop. As effective as Spell check may be it doesn’t come close to equalling the service this book has provided me. The book has been there for me like an old friend. There is an intimacy here that remains inexplicable. The book’s pages are beginning to pull away from the binding now and its days are sadly numbered but I will love it to the very end. In much the same way as I loved the father that gave it to me.