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Of book collecting

January 14, 2009
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What, don’t tell me anyone is honestly surprised to find out I collect books?

Well, I don’t have much of a collection, to tell the truth – a few first edition here and there (First Edition Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery, First US Edition Silmarillion), what I really like are those books that have slices of life here and there.

Witness my copy of Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. It’s a “mere” second edition, but what I love about it is the tiny note in the corner – “To Naomi, BSc, from Warren, New Haven, June 3 1947”. Or my copy of James Knowles’ King Arthur and his Knight (that one is a US First Edition) – “Proficiency prize to Marion Scott of Room 4, Gr. III, Bowmanville Public School, December 17 1931.”. Or, most simple of all, in a very old book of poetry by Robert Browning – “Edith Macfarlane, Christmas 1892” (I’m not sure on the name, as it’s a signature wiggle).

It really drives home that these books have a history, they were gifts and they were prizes before they got to you – long before they got to you (My grandmother was all of sixteen when Naomi got her book, and a toddler when Marion got hers. As for Edith, she got HERS in my grand-great-grandparents’ time.) And it only makes them more valuable – not in terms of money (not that I’d ever sell them), but in terms of personal value.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 14, 2009 10:20 pm

    Looking through my collection, I think I have one book with that kind of note: my 1882 copy of Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E.M. Berens. It doesn’t have a note per se, but rather the signatures and hometowns of a bunch of people (presumably previous owners):
    W. B. Nash of Cherryfield, ME
    J. Colby Bassett of Winslow, ME (J.C. wrote his name many times in the inside cover… I wonder why.)
    Richard McLeer of , W.V.
    Norman L. Bassett of Winslow, ME
    There are also a couple of dates in random spots – 1886 and 1890. It’s really rather mysterious.

    I’ve also got:
    – 1897 copy of Peabody’s Old Greek Folk Stories
    – Signed first edition (1999) of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian.
    – 1949 Modern Library version of The Latin Poets (Catullus, Virgil, Ovid, and a bunch more) complete with mostly-intact dust jacket.
    – 1932 Modern Library version of the stories of Anton Chekov
    – a 1977 boxed set of paperbacks of the hobbit and the lord of the rings, interesting only because the books and the box are still in reasonably good condition.
    – one of the hardback quarter-bound faux leather copies of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust

    I probably have others sitting around – my library’s a bit of a mess at the moment.

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