Ever since the Crossroads Used Book Sale, I’ve been enjoying my new old books and writing about why they are such a delight to me. I treasure them because I believe these books were far more precious in their day than a book is now, simply because of the relative scarcity of books and the cost of publishing. Only the cream of the crop would be published. Owning something that was highly valued by the society that produced it makes me value it, too. It is evident that these volumes were made to last, and they did last. Would a book published in 2012 last until 2112? Maybe, but probably not as well as those leather covers and thick pages have lasted.
Here is a well-travelled Christmas present. Notice the “This is My Book” section from Edmonton, Alberta, and the sticker from Santa Monica, California. It is Myths Every Child Should Know, originally published in 1905, edited by Hamilton Wright Mabie.
And those marvellous inscriptions! Did everyone have such exquisite handwriting? Judging from the old school books which made handwriting such a priority, I think most did. (I used to have legible handwriting, until my fingers got out of the habit of writing slowly and gracefully!) Not only is the penmanship a work of art, but reading the note makes me feel like I’m getting a peek into the personal life and family of the original owner.
Here is one of my favorite signatures, in The Pleasures of Life by Sir John Lubbock (copyright 1887). I also love the embossed designs and flowers on the cover.
Any book can transport you to another world and another time in the same way a traveler goes on a holiday, but old books can be like the person who actually lived in that other place and time. You can’t help but notice the differences in language, attitudes and the political climate that come through unintentionally by what the author writes. It makes me feel like I know the author’s world, instead of just reading about it in a history book.
Here is a sweet children’s story book with an inscription from 1923, given as a birthday present. (Don’t you just love how they used the term “Master” for boys?)
And this 1915 book was a reward for a job well done, learning the Ten Commandments…
Do you have any old books that particularly thrill you? Do tell! Send me a message on my About page if you want to send me photos to include on another post.
Happy hunting, and happy reading!