We were looking the other evening for our copy of a lovely book, Nathan Silver’s 1968 Lost New York. I remember buying it second hand when we had no money, perhaps five years after it was first published, in the even-then old-fashioned warren that was Galloway and Morgan in Aberystwyth. The book is a photographic essay on the lost buildings and streets of a past city. It is very evocative, not that I’ve ever been to New York, or now ever will (but then the city of the mind — of Edith Wharton, say — is not there to be visited). But there’s something about glimpses of cities the day-before-yesterday, though I find it hard to put into words the deep appeal I find in them.
We couldn’t believe it that the book had gone. Somehow, in a mad moment, in one of those necessary fits of clearing out to keep at bay the ever over-flowing shelves, we must have looked at each other and said ‘have you opened that in a dozen years or more? no?? then it should go to Oxfam!’. But we can’t remember how we ever came to agree that. For the book is a delight to browse in occasionally, and we were sentimentally attached to it. How odd.
So I have found a copy online, absurdly cheap. And here it is again. But not quite as we remember it — for this is a later reprint, and at least in our memory the original photographic reproductions were sharper, on glossier paper. But maybe our memories play us false, and it’s just that a replica isn’t quite the original with its own small history.