I find an interesting juxtaposition of decay and divine in illuminated books of hours or pieces like this from one of Dante's early works. The ideas and the pictures that illuminate them raise us to new heights. We ponder lofty thoughts and look on works of art, all on the same page.
Yet these hundreds of years later we find decay amidst the beauty. Yellowed edges crack and fall off. Places touched by human hands have marks where body oil met paper. Bindings leave flakes in the laps that hold them.
A used book store is full of such fading finds. A new store smells of fresh ink; an old one reeks of mildew. New books have perfect, white pages; old books have watermarks, dog-eared pages, underlining, and yellow paper. But what treasures one can find amidst the decaying edges.
Check it out: This site includes photos from old books as well as engravings of initials.
What is the oldest book you own? Does it show signs of decay?