The Enigma of the Letter E

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEnglish spelling is a curious thing; in the following short poem, The Enigma of E, we follow the letter “e” as it wanders enigmatically from the beginning of words to the end of words to evoke such vastly different meanings. Enjoy the journey…

The beginning of eternity,
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
The end of very place.

I stumbled across this delightful curiosity when I visited an antiquarian bookstore and pulled an old dusty book from a forlorn stack of books, hidden from view by another stack of books. Like an old pair of leather shoes, the book was tattered and worn, with a fragile spine that barely held onto to its musty-smelling yellowed brittle pages. The title immediately captured my interest — From Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-field of Literature by Charles Bombaugh. The book was published in 1890 by J. B. Lippincott Company that was founded by Joshua Ballinger Lippincott (1813-1886) to initially publish Bibles and books of prayers. Over time, the Philadelphia-based company expanded its catalog to include biography, fiction, poetry, history, and reference books like dictionaries, almanacs, school textbooks, and textbooks on law, medicine, and nursing. The publisher was extremely successful, becoming one of the largest publishers by the end of the 19th century. Following the turn of the century, Lippincott began publishing textbooks and reference books for elementary and high schools. The company continued to grow throughout the decades and was purchased by Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. in 1978. The headquarters, a stately Italianate-style brick building, can still be seen today at 227 South 6th Street, overlooking Washington Square.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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