Image description. A stack of "very
important" books. Illustration drawn by
The booklet looked at the title of the
imposing volume written prominently on the side. It read “The Complete
Chronicles of Caelereth, compiled by Thymlin Thaemersdyn and others”.
“Ah, it’s about history!” the booklet remarked, impressed. “Does it really
contain the history of the world? I mean the history of the whole
world? The whole of history?”
“You bet!” the tome said. “Can’t you see I have ‘complete’ in the
title? I have detailed accounts of all the wars and go way, way back to
the Era of the Anvil, of Harmony, Sorcery and Sundering, even to the Age
of Silence, long before humans even existed! Besides, I’m the unabridged
edition. Too bad my little brother is not around, so that you might
compare us two. Anyway, I have a large family, you should know. Half dozen
cousins specialize on the history of various continents, but I’m the most
comprehensive tome of them all. I contain everything they do – and more!”
The booklet was overwhelmed by all that. He felt so amazed actually that
upon pondering all the things that might be written in such a book a spell
of dizziness befell it. Recording everything that had ever happened – what
a task! The booklet was proud to find itself on the very same desk with
such a celebrity; and it said so to the quill which was lingering in an
“Quite an important book, I agree,” the quill gave its opinion. “However,
most important of all? I’m not so sure.”
Indeed, just after the quill had spoken, another book covered with pale
sandy suede leather didn’t want to let the matter rest at that: “My
esteemed and valued Chronicle!” it said. “Certainly you can’t put forward
your claim in all seriousness to be the most important book of all!
Without me all your history, complete or not, couldn’t even be
“Who’re you to make such a bold remark?” the Chronicle raised its voice,
which suddenly turned loud and booming. The tome frowned disgruntledly,
for it considered any discussion on who might earn the title aside from
itself a complete waste of time. “Who’re you to doubt that my 1573 pages –
not including appendices! – don’t make me the most important of you all?”
it boasted. The history book was massive, there was no doubt about that,
almost a behemoth, and the suede leathered one was only half its size – if
“Well, size isn’t everything, in case you haven’t heard yet,” the new
contender maintained resolutely. It was not only tinier and more elegant
than the Chronicle, but wieldier too, and had its way with words as the
Chronicle was about to find out. “I’m a dictionary, my historic friend,
and on top of that also a thesaurus: two in one, one in two parts.
All-comprising is the word! And I comprise all words, so I should know…”
The book smirked, amused by its own clever play on words.
“Ha! I know what a dictionary is, but I’ve never even heard of a
‘thesaurus’ in all my life on the shelf. Sounds more like some kind of
monster to me,” the Chronicle responded, a tone of contempt in his voice.
“So how could a book like a dictionary, or whatever else you say you are,
possibly be more important than a volume filled to the brim with the
world’s complete history?”
“Because everything you can read in books is made up of words,” the
dictionary explained calmly. “So whatever grand or small events might be
described on your 1573 pages – not including appendices! –, you need to
put single words together to form sentences and paragraphs. And words and
all their meanings are documented, well, in a dictionary. So that’s why
I’m clearly more important than you are,” the Dictionary elaborated
bursting with self-confidence, “because I mark the foundation of
everything there is text- and thus book-wise." Fervently it went on:
"Besides, isn’t it telling that I’m not surprised at all that an ignorant
history book has never heard a term like ‘thesaurus’? Couldn’t happen to
me, you see, I know even the oddest and rarest of words! A ‘thesaurus’ by
the way is…”
“…a book containing systematized lists of synonyms and related terms. It’s
right here on page 361 and following,” a new voice finished the sentence
matter-of-factly, only to add: “The way you talk you sound like a
pretentious know-it-all, Dickie! But if you want to have it, I can
compete. Just so you know.”
The Chronicle and the Dictionary glanced at the book that had just chimed
in intrepidly. It was yet another bulky, expensive looking leather-bound
tome, and like the others it was also convinced of its own importance.
Unlike the first two this one even had embossed ornaments all over its
cover and beautiful gilded metal edges, which made it beautiful to look at
– a veritable treasure of every library it resided in. The title read
“The Great Santharian Compendium”.
The booklet let out a little whistle when it noticed that the tome’s spine
also specified a volume number: “Vol. VIII – Letters S-U” was
written there, broad and shiny. The Compendium consisted of more than
eight parts! Each single one of them probably about a thousand pages or
“Well, it's true, you might know everything about history,” the Compendium
stated, addressing the Chronicle. Then it turned to the Dictionary: “And
you might think that simply because you are all about words, that this
makes you the most important. But history is only a part of everything
else there is, and a dictionary is just a tool to build something out of
the words it contains! A dictionary doesn’t record history or describe
things like people or beasts and plants. Neither does it express any
ideas, categorize them, link and order them, makes the world more
comprehensible. That’s what I do, the most detailed encyclopaedia that
ever existed, and no other book does it so well.
Therefore, in the one form or another, the Santharian Compendium can be
found throughout the lands in academies, libraries, schools, in inns,
ships travelling the seas, at the Santhran’s palace as well as in many
commoner’s homes, and – last not least – at this very writer’s desk! For
everyone has a need to understand, and thanks to the Compendium they can.
That’s what’s really important! Not just to be able to understand,
Dickie, but to really understand how the world works the way it
“Now what about this one?” the booklet asked the quill after it had
listened to the Compendium’s speech. “That makes sense, doesn’t it? That
encyclopaedia must be the most important of them all!”
The quill wiggled undecidedly in its inkwell. “Well, maybe. Then again
The booklet looked at him quizzically.
But before the quill could answer, the Chronicle and the Dictionary had
begun speaking at the same time, belligerently trying to defend their own
claim, and attacked the Compendium from their respective angles. The
Compendium didn’t understand a word of all the babbling going on all of a
sudden, but it felt nonetheless obliged to join the heated debate and
defend its stance – which had the effect that all three were now talking
over each other and nobody was actually listening. Maybe that’s the
trouble with voluminous books: They have a lot to say, and once they
start, they go on and on; but none of them has ever cultivated how to
listen properly. So the three of them indulged in bickering, which went on
for quite a bit, for neither of the disputants wanted to cease its
arguing, lest it seemed that they’d give in to someone else’s argument.
At some point however, as if by behest, there happened to occur a quiet
moment though in this lively and emotional discussion. Everyone paused to
collect their thoughts. It was just an instance, but enough to give yet
another book the opportunity to chip in. “What a pointless squabble you’re
having!” it complained. That book dealt with the subject of philosophy and
religion, and it was quick to remind the Compendium that an encyclopaedia
only touched upon how the world works, while a book on philosophy
of course went for looking behind everything that was, attempting
to fathom the why. And because of that, so at least this particular
book concluded, and according to the laws of logic established therein,
such a tome must clearly be more important than any other book; after all
its subject was what’s real and what’s not, it discussed ideas that
thought itself was based on, and thus it also dealt with everything that
preceded language, history or the categorization of things. Its matter was
truth on the one hand and spiritual fulfilment on the other, and what else
could be more important than that?
“Pshaw! Ideas… categorizing… chronicling… Just listen to yourself! What
about matters of the heart and soul?” a smaller book chock-full with
acclaimed poetry of the last centuries interjected hereafter.
“Philosophy!” it sneered especially at the latest contender and alleged
that whatever scholars thought up in their ivory towers wasn’t of actual
importance to anyone except to, well, scholars in ivory towers. According
to the poetry tome everything people felt was what people really
lived on, not concepts and constructs and systems and their like. “All
that thinking, and thinking about thinking, merely comes down to putting
stuff in drawers”, the poetry tome argued. “Drawers are a convenient place
to stow away all kinds of things, and notions and problems alike, but life
is meant to be lived! Scrutinizing it is only an exercise for scholars. To
live and enjoy life another kind of book is needed!” The noblest thing a
soul could strive for would be romantic love, the collection expressed its
conviction, and hence edifying lyrics that served the purpose of spreading
love and understanding would be of the essence. “Face it,” the tiny book
proclaimed confidently. “I’m the most important among us! If you're smart
enough and have feelings at all, you'd admit it too!”
And so it went on. Also various spell books, guides and even anthologies
compiling fairy tales found that they had reason to believe they were
absolutely indispensable compared to the whole rest: because they either
gave instructions how to alter reality, or helped readers to achieve their
practical goals, or taught people morality lessons and incited their
imagination and thus contributed substantially to the betterment of
The whole ruckus of books arguing and counter-arguing only came to an end
when the study received a visitor: Later in the afternoon the writer
entered the room. Suddenly every single book fell quiet and watched the
master get to work with bated breath.
The man, a stern looking, graying fellow, took a book from the top of the
pile on his desk. First he looked up something, and, after finding it,
read for a while, before turning to another book, through which he then
leafed leisurely as well. A couple of notes found their way onto a sheet
as he checked a passage here and there, and thereafter the writer went on
to consult yet another tome. When he was done he put all the books back on
top of the pile and finally turned to what he came for – writing.
Dipping his quill into the inkwell the man wrote the first lines of a new
tale, looked at them, changed a few words, added some more. As it turned
out, he would be writing way into the night; sometimes he was thinking
long and hard before committing just a few words to paper, at other times
the lines almost dripped from his quill and the person sitting in front of
the page appeared to be just watching. Needless to say, the master of the
written word filled quite a few pages of our booklet that way. When he
blew out his candle sometime around midnight, the story he had set out to
put down was already halfway done – or at least a first draft.
Peace and quiet settled again in the study once the writer had left.
Listening to the constant soothing scratches of the quill on the paper the
books had all dozed off by now. Only the quill and the booklet were still
"Quite a day's work," the quill said to his companion. It was whispering
in order not to wake the other books.
"Aye," the booklet replied, beaten, but happy. "Just a few hours ago I
didn’t have a single letter on any of my many pages, and now there's that
marvellous story, well, at least half of it! Would you believe it? Oh, I
wonder where that tale is heading... – May the Gods bless this talented
The quill smiled. "I'm sure you'll know in no time how the story ends.
He's very dedicated, you know; whatever he starts, he'll try to get
finished right in time before the inspiration for the next tale arrives."
The booklet was pleased to hear that, it was so looking forward to the
story's conclusion! Certainly it would dream all night about this… But
before it wished the quill good night, the booklet felt it had to ask
another thing that it still found bothering. "Say, and what now about the
end of that argument we had the whole afternoon?" it queried. "Will we
ever find a winner?"
"I doubt it," the quill replied. "Come tomorrow they'll all be up in arms
again. Each and every member of this exclusive leather-bound club is
convinced to be the most important, that's just the way it is. Even if a
book hasn't made a claim yet, I bet they're all convinced of it
nevertheless, and will eventually come up with something to support their
"And what do you think?" the booklet asked, recalling some cryptic
comments the quill had made earlier.
"That importance lies in the eye of the beholder," the quill said. "And if
each of these books only looks at itself from its own point of view, each
will find that it must be the most important one of course. Now,
from a quill's perspective, all who brought forward their arguments today
are rather important books – for the one or the other reason,
there's no doubt about that; but the most important one for me isn't among
"Really?" the booklet looked at his friend incredulously. "But we've got
them all here, haven't we?"
“In a way, yes…” The quill stooped to the booklet. "Let me explain: Just
think about the writer when he came in today. He looked at quite a few of
these tomes, for he needed a couple of things to make his text work,
right? Maybe he was looking for a specific date to place his story,
perhaps a certain word, or an idea, some inspiration to get his
imagination going, could be all of that... So all these books served their
purpose, didn't they?"
"Aye, I guess so," the booklet agreed.
"But whatever he had learned in books in all his life, whatever he was
looking for right now, and whatever he found," the quill went on, "he
finally got down to writing himself.”
“Glad he did,” the booklet answered with glee.
“And isn't that what's truly important? The book he's going to write, not
so much all the ones that are already there, as important they may be?
Isn’t it about creating something new from what there is? To put together
ideas in a way never done before? Be it in scholarly fashion, or as a poet
writing romance, or a novelist weaving tales? That's at least what gets
“Me too,” the booklet nodded.
The quill whirled enthusiastically in his inkwell. "The books on these
shelves and the ones piled up here on the desk are the way they are, they
don't change anymore, they don't set out to undiscovered lands, aspire to
higher goals. They are done, and all they're left with is an attitude –
and not the best, I might add! They might be wise and deep and wonderful
and whatever – even the classics, of which readers can't get enough. But
once they are leather-bound all they do is to simply bask in their own
The booklet thought about this, remembering how narrow-mindedly the books
had behaved. Once the discussion continued it wouldn't be any different,
"Well, I might be biased," the quill continued. "But as far as I'm
concerned I'm more interested in helping to write rather than judging what
has been written. You see, the future of books doesn't lie in thick tomes
gathering dust on the shelves, busy with being important, but rather in
these many, many empty pages still ahead – and they have to be filled! We
wouldn't have any new books if it weren't so... As a quill, I'm here to
help things along, get down history, philosophy, lyrics, stories, whatever
the writer pleases. Maybe what is being written now on these blank pages
will end up in a bound tome someday, who knows? But for me books mean more
than to be bound and live in glory happily ever after."
The booklet was stumped, for all of a sudden its many empty pages seemed
to take on an entirely new meaning. “You’re saying the most important
book…” The booklet’s words trailed off.
"You'll figure it out," the quill said curtly. "And now grab a few winks,
comrade – we’ve got some more work to do tomorrow!"