Just before Christmas, it was delivered to my office. Covered in brown paper, I unwrapped it carefully as I noticed the spine was wearing out. Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, First Edition, 1941. I opened it to find the book’s previous owner — Jim Warren — put his mark inside under the words, “A book is a journey.”
In the 1930s, thousands of artists and writers were put to work by the Work Projects Administration to produce guidebooks for every state and many cities. The team that did ours made it the second biggest in the series. Many have been reprinted in new editions, but not Washington’s, so I had to track down a copy at a tiny Seattle bookstore.
Richard Correll’s linoleum-cut prints adorn the pages, and the book is filled with historical panoramas and itineraries for trips through our amazing corner of the country. Mr. Warren marked up some passages, and kept lists on the blank pages in the back; I found more of his notes on scraps of paper tucked inside. It even smells like it probably sat in his daughter’s basement for a couple decades before it found its way to a bookstore.
Yeah, I’m a throwback. In an era of Kindles and iBooks, I still love to wander around Auntie’s to see where that journey takes me. I don’t need pop-up ads on websites to tell me what I last searched; I’m out to find the things I don’t even know I’m interested in yet. And the key to it all is the printed word, made permanent between the faded green-cloth covers of my new-to-me treasure trove.
It’s comforting to see others still feel strongly about words, too. On a recent 60 Minutes, Morley Safer documented how the people of New Orleans rose up to protest the news that the city’s daily, The Times-Picayune, would cut back to printing only three newspapers a week. And just last week, we printed our 1,001st Inlander — that’s a lot of words and images we’ve made permanent. All those Inlanders later, you seem to like what we’re doing, as we continue to add readers every year.
Here in Spokane, volunteers are mobilizing to win support for our city libraries, which allow every citizen, young and old, rich and poor, to wade into a sea of words. Think of all those books on all those shelves as little beacons guiding every individual journey to enlightenment.