Discovering Out of Town Book Stores

While on holiday visiting relatives in the Denver area, I decided to check the yellow pages for used bookstores, just in case I had some time to visit them. And I lucked out and got to go to three of them!

The Bookworm in Boulder, Colorado

This bookstore came highly recommended by a friend of our family who lives up in the mountains west of Boulder, an earthy town northwest of Denver. This was originally just to be a place for me to meet another dear friend, and what a great choice that turned out to be, since I got way more browsing time than expected. Clean, well-lit, organized, stocked with a huge supply of books, nicely labelled categories, and staffed by pleasant people, this was a dream of a used bookstore. After browsing my favorite sections (writing, children, fiction, religion) for over an hour, I wandered close to the cash register area and hit the mother lode of old books. Many of their antique books had been shelved along with the newer books, so I was surprised to see one large section (surrounding a desk) completely filled with books published fifty or more years ago. I found this at just the time that my friend was planning to pick me up, and as I awaited her text, I hoped she’d be delayed just a bit longer.

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After being assured by staff that I was allowed to snoop through these shelves and the boxes on the floor, I kneeled down on the floor and pulled some books out that were hidden behind a stack of boxes. One of them, I discovered, was a Bible published in 1865. After researching its value, the lovely manager of the store said, “I’m sorry, but this is quite expensive.” It was worth $75 U.S.–more than I wanted to pay. But in her hands were three other old children’s books that she thought I might like, which was a very sweet gesture. I ended up buying two old school readers for $3 each, and the Mere Christianity Journal for $6 in perfect condition. (The idea of using this journal to “dialogue with” C.S. Lewis about his thoughts is thrilling!)

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Red Letter Books in Boulder, Colorado

After a fantastic lunch of fish tacos, my friend wanted to browse around another book store–happy dance!–so we went to Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall to one recommended by the sweet manager at Bookworm for its many old and rare books. Red Letter Books was a different type of store, smaller, crowded, not as organized and tidy, but with a bigger selection of interesting books. Outside on the sidewalk were its $1 sale books, and I snatched up a hardcover of Gilead, the Pulitzer Prize’ winner by Marilynne Robinson, for my friend. She in turn bought me Watership Down, which has twice been recommended to me by my pastor. (Now is apparently the time for me to read it, so in spite of the two other books I have on the go, I started reading it immediately!)

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I came away with 5 additional books from Red Letter Books, most between $5 and $10: the two books I was missing from my set of 1950’s Winnie the Pooh books, a 1904 romance novel called God’s Good Man, and two other children’s books, Child Rhymes, and Stepping Stones to Literature, both published in the early twentieth century.

Capital Hill Books in Denver

While wandering around and taking pictures in Denver of the gold-domed state capital, the spires of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Molly Brown House, I stopped in Capital Hill books. A small but bright and orderly used book store, it has various notes and communications around the store that give it a cheerful personality.

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It is arranged and labelled well, and although it has few old children’s books, I couldn’t resist a 1905 edition of my all-time favorite children’s book, A Childs’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I also have a 1950’s version of this beautiful book, which I bought with my allowance money in 1965, as well as a more recent large edition that I bought because of the gorgeous illustrations

In a way, I’m surprised at how these stores are apparently thriving while many other new book stores are failing. I am so grateful to the owners, and all the other used book lovers that help keep them going!

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I Love Old Books! (Part 2)

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.

Myths Every Child Should Know

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!