The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Cutting Up Books

I like books. Husband and I have quite a collection; we both have an inability to part with anything but the worst of the worst and inflicting intentional damage on a book has always been beyond contemplation.

However, with our LEJOG planning now reaching its final stages, I find that I’ve had to abandon my ‘never damage’ principles, and I’m not just talking about cutting off covers. There are books that need some serious surgery.

It’s been a task that I’ve put off and put off, but finally it had to come. I’m not weight-obsessed to the point of cutting labels out of clothes, but paper is heavy and (most of the time at least) I don’t want to carry lots more than is necessary.

The painful exercise has started with the Maelor Way guide book. It contains sketch maps of a route that goes through low-land farm-land. That’s the sort of terrain that I’m not happy to navigate using 1:50k maps and the sketch maps will save us from the expense of multiple 1:25k maps.

It’s an excellent guidebook, with bountiful amounts of information about practically everything that you pass on the route, being the amenities in villages to interesting buildings, and with copious notes about the flora and fauna that you can expect along the Way. Added to that, it gives detailed route instructions (justifiably detailed given the nature of the terrain) describing the Way in both directions.

This all good and interesting stuff, but it amounts to a 126 page book. That’s a lot of book when all I really want is the sketch maps and a few route directions to cover a distance of 24 miles.

So, out came the scissors and the scanner which dealt with the maps. The salient route directions I typed out (not as extreme as it may sound – I type fast so it didn’t take long). The result is that 126 pages of book have been reduced to five sheets of A4 paper.

Now I have to carry out the same exercise with the ‘End to End Trail’ book. Of its 414 pages, we really only need about a dozen of the sketch maps (our route only co-incides with this book in a few places). Cutting up this one is going to be more difficult (mentally speaking) than the Maelor Book. Whereas the Maelor Book is a cheap edition printed on newsprint quality paper, the End to End Trail book is a proper Cicerone guidebook.

I have to be ruthless and it is going to pain me to be so.


  1. Hi Gayle,

    just thought why don't you visit a copy shop and photocopy what you need instead of destroying the original book? You can even reduce the sizing, copy double sided and on waterproof paper etc.

    Just a thought
    Roman - Lighthiker

  2. Hi Roman,

    That would be my ideal solution. Unfortunately these are books that just won't open wide enough to be able to place them sufficiently flat onto a copier to get a decent copy. The only way I can get a good copy is to take the pages out...

  3. Over nine years later and I'm feeling your pain. If you could have seen my husband's face when I started taking scissors to the stack of paper-based info for Phase 1 of my walk... well I could only laugh. I still haven't attacked my End to End guide book, but may resort to photographing the sketch pages for the footpaths through to Chepstow.

    1. It's a slippery slope, this cutting up of books. I found that the pain of taking a knife to books got less on each subsequent trip, and I now have a bookshelf with multiple books now, at least partially, in 'loose leaf' form.