Thursday, January 22, 2009

Judging A Book By Its Cover - Being a Seforim Snob

(Picture courtesy of

I am usually not so superficial to judge a book by it cover, however, I have to admit that I have strong preferences about the cover and design of the seforim that I purchase. If I discover that a sefer I learn regularly has come out in a new printing that is noticeably more attractive, I will often "upgrade" to the new printing.

I prefer "classic" looking seforim and have a strong distate for those that are too colorful or have pictures on the cover. My wife once pointed out to me that while I rarely buy anything for myself, that my indulgence in materialism is most evident in my purchase of seforim and the concern for their aesthetic qualities.

I am not exactly sure why I pay little attention to the cover of regular books yet I pay a lot of attention to the covers of the seforim that I purchase. Is it because I have an understanding for the worth of the material that is contained inside and that I do not feel that it is covered appropriately? Or is this just a lofty sounding rationalization for my gashmiusdike desire?


At January 22, 2009 at 8:48:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

It’s important for gashmius to be an appropriate keili for ruchnius. So, it’s OK to enjoy a better-looking seifer (I am guilty of the same — and I am also about ergonomics; I like buying small siddurim, tehillim books, tanyas, etc.), as long as this enjoyment doesn’t prevent you from buying a seifer in a boring cover which is not available in any other edition.

As a moshol, if there are two teachers giving a shiur, and their content is the same, but one of them speaks with nice voice, intonation and rhythms and the other puts you to sleep, is there anything wrong going to the first one?

At January 22, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for your feedback, Crawling Axe :)

At January 22, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM EST, Blogger chanie said...

I think there's an issue if a sefer has too elaborate a cover. To be m'chubad, it should be toned down, not flashy.

If you're a seforim snob, I guess I am, too. I have the same exact issue.

At January 22, 2009 at 10:21:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

ASJ, you nailed it again - that post sounds alot like me!

At January 22, 2009 at 10:28:00 AM EST, Blogger Neil said...

I often think about seforim with new covers sort of like the 4 different designs for Cherry Coke. For those who like Cherry Coke what the can looks like doesn't matter. The can is only updated to get new customers.

At January 22, 2009 at 10:29:00 AM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

I like covers and bindings and pages that last, and readable print. I also like it when words and phrases are spelled out and not abbreviated.

As for the covers, I'm not bothered by gaudy colors or pictures, etc.

Unfortunately, some of the thickest volumes have weak bindings.

Newer editions often have the merit of better edited text with fewer typos.

The worst editions have pages attached to each other because of incomplete cutting or glue that seeped between pages, or areas of illegible or missing print. It's a real disappointment to get such a sefer in the mail after expectantly waiting for it.

At January 23, 2009 at 8:29:00 AM EST, Blogger Menashe said...

Chitzonius dkedusha. I would compare it to preparing a nice table lkovod shabbos. It's a little different than buying a lexus.

My maskana: Not just not bad; rather a positive hanhaga.

At January 23, 2009 at 8:45:00 AM EST, Blogger Alice said...

It is interesting. I would think that some of the obscure books and pamphlets that you collect from Eastern Europe might be printed in a rather cheap way simply because of the low budget situation in which they were created, no? I know you might not be talking about those types of literature.

It's not like many people are getting rich off of religious books even in this day and age, so it doesn't surprise me that some of the super brainy/religious people who put these books together aren't really tuned into graphic design. I agree that I do like a nice cover - but it is silliness on my part. Then again, I am an art lover so of course I am tuned into that.


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