As you may know I suffer from abibliophobia, the fear of running out of good reading material. And of course this means that I love getting new books. Thankfully I have a job, and some associations, that ensure that I get new books on a very regular basis. And in one of those new books—Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr.—I came across a letter about receiving new books.
Here’s the background.
In 1779 John Newton published a 3-volume collection of hymns titled Olney Hymns. It contained 348 hymns, including Amazing Grace, and were mostly written by Newton himself (William Cowper pitched in 68). Upon hearing of the book’s release John Ryland Jr., a friend of Newton’s, wanted a set for himself. Ryland wrote Newton to express his anticipation. Newton mailed him a free set. But ahead of the books Newton sent the following letter:
The hymn books will be with you soon, how soon I know not. Your hungry curiosity will not be long in appeasing. When you have read the preface, twirled over the pages, run your eye down the tables of contents, and have the book by you, you will feel much as you do about any other book that has been lying by you seven years. At least I have often found it so (but perhaps your heart is not just like mine). I have longed for a book, counted the hours till it came, anticipated a thousand things about it, flew to it at first sight with eagerness as a hawk at its prey; and in a little time it has been as quiet, as if placed upon the upper shelf in a bookseller’s shop. [Wise Counsel, 127]
How true it is.