This is an update on the CBC Calgary READS Big Book Sale. They had hoped to hold the sale in September, but will now have to postpone it until next year. They are in great need of support, as their website says…
We currently have multiple, no contact, volunteer opportunities such as Porch Pick Ups, Delivery of Book Bags, Little Free Library fill ups and Community Book Drops. If you have an interest in participating, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
The health, safety and well-being of our volunteers, employees and customers is our top priority and we are following the lead of Canadian public health authorities during this challenging time. Due to the current challenges of COVID-19, our Big Book Sale is postponed. We are planning to hold the Big Book Sale next year… as soon as we know more, you will too. Your willingness to support us with your time and energy is deeply appreciated. If you have any questions please contact us at: email@example.com
Also, as I posted in May, RESET Society postponed their book sale to next year, but you can still give some needed supporthere.
“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.
This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/;
And just a note…if you are looking for brick-and-mortar used book stores….
My two favorites are back in business! I have visited Fair’s Fair and Better Books and Bibles in the past month, and I know they would love all the business they can get. Treat yourself!
I hope that you are well and safe. We will get through this, and I believe there will be good things that result from this pandemic–let’s watch and see. God bless you!
I leave you with a photo from my old, old Junior Instructor that always makes me smile…
At this time of year, I usually post information to help you plan for the Calgary’s biggest and best used book sales, but this year things are (obviously) a bit different…
RESET Calgary usually holds the first used book sale at the Crossroads Market. Here is the note on their website:
“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.
This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/”
The Calgary READS sale is usually at the Calgary Curling Club, and they are planning their used book sale for the fall of 2020. BUT in the meantime, they need your donations of new and “like-new” CHILDREN’S books NOW.
“If you are able to donate “gently used” children’s books, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide instructions on how to donate.”
And for those who just can’t wait for the in-person used book sales, you can still shop online. Although the following do not offer as many incredible deals as RESET and Calgary READS will offer, here are some used book stores to get you started:
Calgary’s Fair’s Fair used bookstore updated their webpage: “Our Inglewood store will be OPEN to the Public effective THURSDAY, MAY 14th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – 7 DAYS A WEEK“.
Calgary’s Better Books and Bibles (new and used Christian books) has posted this notice on their website: “We are opening our doors again on Saturday May 30th!Our hours will remain the same (10-2) but will increase if business calls for it. We are very excited to see all of you again!” https://www.betterbooksandbibles.com/
AbeBooks, founded in Victoria, B.C., Canada, now worldwide, has a page for searching for books with free shipping to Canada.
Better World Books has free shipping to Canada, and has several deals happening now. As their website says, “Every time you purchase a book on betterworldbooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”
Powell’s Books is included in my list because it is near and dear to my heart. This “City of Books” was established in 1971 and is also one of the top attractions in the city of Portland. In the two hours I had allotted to explore it in 2007, I only made it through about a third of this unique store.
Happy reading to all!
Wishing you all health, safety, sanity, and patience as we get through this time!
Life is still beautiful. Consider yourself hugged.
[Warm appreciation to photographer Artem Beliaikin for the “Pile of Books” image!]
If you had offered me a book with a rather off-putting cover drawing about a family who endured the hardships of trying to make a living on a farm in the late 1800’s, I’d have probably declined. That’s been done in various scenarios, and sounds depressing. I’d have preferred something with more pizzazz and originality.
But when I found this book on the shelf of a thrift store, I discovered some key information to change my mind. It was published in 1953, the author’s name was familiar, she had won a Pulitzer Prize, and it was $2.50 that would go toward a good cause. Seemed like a good bet, and a good book to bring home. And was it ever.
The story centers around Ase, whose brother Ben is the apple of his mother’s eye. After his father dies, Ben leaves the farm to seek fortune and adventure. Their mother grieves his loss, and will not believe that he went on his own volition. She never pretends to have any affection for Ase, but he nevertheless devotes himself to her care and making a success of their farm. He marries energetic trickster Nellie and they start a family. He is a thoughtful philosophical dreamer, yet too responsible to let his own longings interfere with his duties.
Ase is wise, yet timid and unable to articulate what is in his huge heart and his keen mind, so others find him an easy target, including his own children. He opens his home to those down on their luck, and finds true friendship in unlikely places. Through hopeful and sad events, despite all the years that go by without any word of him, Ase never stops hoping for the return of his brother.
From page one The Sojourner was too gripping to put down, and I didn’t want to miss one single word. Each character in turn was introduced in a few pages to make you feel as if you had known them for a lifetime. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. The intense commitment of the farming community to their livelihood and to one another show the stoicism and dedication that built the powerful American society of the early twentieth century.
Reading it was a quiet experience. I don’t just mean that I read it in silence; it also calmed my mind. The longer I read, the more I joined this family miles away from the nearest neighbor, and enjoyed the restful evenings without electricity, as though I could hear the silent breeze rustling the grass in their distant field. All of these combined to make a quality story of depth, common yet uncommon humanity, spiritual truth, and a satisfying outcome.
Following the motivations, decisions and outcomes in each of their journeys was illuminating. It makes me feel like I understand those in my little circle, and people all around the world, even more. It is the kind of book I keep hoping to discover in contemporary fiction and rarely seem to find. (Please enlighten me if you have found otherwise, I’d love to find some great contemporary fiction!) And the wonderful thing is that in learning more about her, I have discovered nine more novels of hers to read.
Marjorie Rawlings’ classic novel is a great example of why I comb the vintage book sections and why I trust the classic authors of fifty or more years ago. Tell me: where else can you get a heartwarming, inspiring experience every evening for three weeks…all for the grand total of two-and-a-half dollars?
The other day I got out two of my favorite books from my childhood, The Junior Instructor, Books 1 and 2. These were originally published in 1916, and the ones my mom gave us as small children were published in 1956.
I was looking for some of the children’s prayers I’d learned, and while I looked for them, I ended up stopping on almost every page, mesmerized by the bright, colorful, happy images.
I remember as a little girl of about four years old, sitting with these tall, heavy books on my lap, enthralled with the images. I was fascinated by the full-sized color photos and paintings, and just assumed that a line drawing was waiting for someone with crayons to color it in. Oops!
As I grew up and learned to read, I wanted to know all about the endless variety of subjects, from circuses, folk tales, history, weather and birds…
…to songs, and what the farmer (or fireman, teacher, milkman, cowboy, policeman, secretary) does…
…to finger plays, Smokey the Bear, aboriginal symbols, parties, math, games, escalators, and even a “futuristic” space ship.
At the end are 20 pages of questions and answers that cover nearly everything a child could ask.
Now as I look through them, I notice some things I didn’t notice ever before. I see that many subjects have been enhanced with a story or poem, or both, possibly for the reader that is not interested in the dry factual text.
I also noticed they show how to make a “spool knitter”, made out of a spool of thread and nails, which produces a long knitted rope. I made one of these when I was about 10 years old—and painstakingly looped the yarn over and under and around to make a colorful rope—and I bet this is where I got the idea.
I found Junior Instructors available to buy on eBay, Etsy and Amazon, but none that were free to download.
Here are some more of my favorite pages from the Junior Instructors, Volumes 1 and 2, for your enjoyment!
In the introduction to the 1915 printing of this book published in 1887, Sylvester Baxter describes the novel as “the ingenious device by which a man of the 19th century is transferred to the end of the 20th”, and notes that in the decade that followed its publication, the world was filled with the agitation it helped kindle. According to the website Quebecois Libre, by the early 1890s, about 13 years after the book was published, there were already 165 “Bellamy Clubs”!
Not only was Edward Bellamy knowledgeable about industrial, social, and political issues and customs, he was also a creative storyteller. This novel ends with a fascinating look at Julian West’s romantic relationships. As the middle of the novel weighed down with social contrasts and details of Bellamy’s 1887-imagined lifestyle of Boston in the year 2000, I started to wonder if I could actually finish it. But the whirlwind ending kept me reading every word.
My first two posts in this review focused on the general premise and the author. In this post, I summarize sections from Looking Backward to give more glimpses into Edward Bellamy’s 1887 vision, and a taste of his writing and the plot. But before I do, I want to share what a previous owner of my copy of this book wrote. Probably inspired by what he or she read, the following penciled notes appear on the copyright page, and I thought they were worthy of passing along:
“He who falls and gains his feet shows more strength than he who never falls.” “God’s greatest gift is time. Use it right.” “Look ahead to realize, not back to regret.”
The novel begins with a Preface, supposedly written by a twentieth century author speaking to a twentieth century reader about the novel he or she is about to read. In Chapter 1 the narrator, a fictional character Julian West, introduces himself by emphasizing that he was born in 1857, not 1957, and he describes his former way of life:
In late 19th century, society was in 4 classes or nations: rich, poor, educated, ignorant—not like today, 2000. As were my parents and grandparents before me, I was wealthy, not working, living off the labours of others, not giving any service to the world, idle, living off my grandparents’ sum of money, shifting the burden of support to others’ shoulders, an art now [in the 2000’s] happily lost, but perfected by ancestors. All sought this accomplishment, to live on the income of his investments. This arrangement seems preposterous now.
Society in those former days can be compared to a coach where many pull it with a rope, and few ride. …the hallucination the riders shared was that they were unlike the rope-pullers, they were superior. This changes any feeling for the suffering of men into a distant, philosophical compassion. This is the only explanation the narrator can give for his own indifference at the late 1800’s toward the misery of others.
Julian West is visiting his fiancé and her family on Decoration Day, May 30, 1887. They want their house to be completely built before they get married, but strikes by carpenters, plumbers and other tradesmen have been delaying it for years. All agree that working classes all over the world seem to be going crazy at once. He leaves them and goes to his home, where he has a subterranean sleeping chamber for his insomnia. He calls for his hypnotist to help him sleep.
He wakes on September 10, 2000, having slept 113 years, to unfamiliar voices discussing him, a woman repeatedly whispering “Promise me you will not tell him.” He is in the home of Dr. Leete who lives in a house built on Julian West’s property. Dr. Leete explains to him that Julian’s house was burned down, and since no one knew of his subterranean sleeping chamber, they assumed he died. The area was recently being excavated and they found the chamber, and Mr. West inside it, asleep.
From an upper story window, Julian notices an absence of chimneys, and an obvious increase in material prosperity applied toward adornment of the city. He will soon find that the sidewalks have “public umbrellas” during the rain. Julian meets Leete’s beautiful daughter who has the same name as his late fiancé, Edith. He comments that the women of the twentieth century dress gracefully compared to the 19th century. (I was surprised that the author did not imagine any motorized vehicles whatsoever, and only referred to horses as transportation, but have learned that mass production of automobiles did not start until about 1901, about 14 years after the book was published.)
After a walk around the neighbourhood, Mr. West and Dr. Leete have a conversation:
“I saw very little that was not new. But I think what surprised me as much as anything was not to find any stores on Washington Street, or any banks on State. What have you done with the merchants and bankers? Hung them all, perhaps, as the anarchists wanted to do in my day?”
“Not so bad as that,” replied Dr. Leete. “We have simply dispensed with them. Their functions are obsolete in the modern world…There is neither selling nor buying nowadays;…As soon as the nation became the sole producer of all sorts of commodities…a system of direct distribution from national storehouses took the place of trade, and for this money was unnecessary…A credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation is given to every citizen, and a credit card issued him with which he procures…whatever he desires.”
“How is the amount of credit…determined?” Julian asks. “With what title does the individual claim his particular share? What is the basis of allotment?”
“His title,” replied Dr. Leete, “is his humanity. The basis of his claim is that fact that he is a man.”
“Do you possibly mean that all have the same share?…Some men do twice the work of others!”
“We require of each that he shall make the same effort…we demand of him the best service it is in his power to give…A man’s endowments…merely fix the measure of his duty…The Creator sets men’s tasks for them by the faculties he gives them…I suppose in the nineteenth century, when a horse pulled a heavier load than a goat, I supposed you rewarded him.”
Citizens choose tasks based upon their natural strengths and interests, and the nation now values and even supports artists, writers, and those with other creative talents. Education is free and compulsory to the age of twenty-one.
Later, Dr. Leete and his daughter Edith take Julian to the store: a vast hall of light from windows and a dome a hundred feet above, a magnificent fountain, mellow tinted walls, chairs and sofas where people conversed, signs on the walls indicating where each category of goods was. The orders for merchandise are taken are sent by pneumatic transmitters to the warehouse and are filled immediately and delivered by larger tubes and distributed to homes by store clerks.
This could describe many a modern mall in the year 2014. It sounds like the rudiments of online shopping, doesn’t it?
Edith enthusiastically explains to Mr. West that now everyone is able to hear a choice of music, by carrying the idea of labor-saving-by-cooperation into their musical service as into everything else. Instead of music—and only one type of music—being available only to the most wealthy of society, a number of music halls (full of musicians playing) are connected by telephone with all the houses. Four different pieces of music are being performed at one time, which the listener can choose by pushing one of four buttons, with music available twenty-four hours a day for even the sleepless and the sick.
This to me is amazing foresight to the readily available music we are accustomed to, through records since about 1900, then cassettes, and now through modern means such as CD’s and music downloads from the internet.
To Mr. West’s question, “Who are willing to be domestic servants in a community where all are social equals?” the answer is that there is no housework to do. Washing is all done at public laundries at low cost, cooking at public kitchens, making and repairing of all clothing is done in public shops. They choose houses no larger than they need, and furnish them so as to involve the minimum of trouble to keep them in order. “What a paradise for womankind the world must be now!” he exclaims.
This could be likened to our abundance of restaurants with infinite choices available, but I do so like the idea of families and their neighbors gathering for low cost meals at a place within walking distance. (In 1887 there were dining rooms connected with hotels, but apparently not yet restaurants.)
Soon they are discussing how formerly the preference was given to more efficient workers, yet the new twenty-first century system encourages the weaker as well as the stronger with the hope of rising to be leaders. “For those too deficient in mental or bodily strength…we have a sort of invalid corps, providing members with a light class of tasks fitted to their strength…all eager to do what they can. Who is capable of self support? There is no such thing in a civilized society as self-support.”
This should give a good idea of the utopian world the author hoped would be found in the year 2000, and his philosophies on individualism versus cooperation.
I debated about whether or not to include a description of the whirlwind romantic ending of the story—a SPOILER—but decided that since the book is so accessible, I suggest that you read it yourself. Just click on this link right now, to find an electronic copy of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 at Gutenberg.org. Then,
under the Download options, click on the top one, “Read this book online”
scroll down to the Table of Contents links
click on Chapter XXV, and that will take you to page 255 (page numbers are on the left).
(If you would like a printed copy of Looking Backward, you can find several on Amazon, and Spark notes are also available.)
Starting at this point will give you all the romantic background. Here you will finally find out why in Chapter 1, as Mr. West was first awakening in the year 2000, the woman was begging her father, “Promise you won’t tell him.” It’s brilliant—I couldn’t put it down!
I wonder what Edward Bellamy would think of North America in the real 2000, or 2014. How would he explain the fact that we are still a society of individualism, of have’s and have-not’s? What drives us to over-spend and often ignore the basic needs of our brothers and sisters in third-world countries? Those are pretty big questions to which I have no clear, simple answers. I suspect, though, that we might shed some light on the matter by using the author’s words: “…he that does not love, does not know God”. When our hearts and lives lack peace with our Maker, we have little or no pipeline to the source of love, and as a result have only a meager supply of grace to offer to others.
What do you think of Looking Backward 1887 to 2000? Of Bellamy’s utopia? Of our 21st century society?
In a recent post I began describing this 1887 book written by Edward Bellamy. Here is more about the author.
The first page leaves no doubt as to why he wrote this book .
“We ask to put forth just our strength, our human strength,
All starting fairly, all equipped alike.
But when full roused, each giant limb awake,
Each sinew strung, the great heart pulsing fast,
He shall start up and stand on his own earth,
Then shall his long, triumphant march begin,
Thence shall his being date.”
“This great poet’s lines express Edward Bellamy’s aim in writing his famous book. That aim would realize in our country’s daily being the Great Declaration that gave us national existence; would, in equality of opportunity, give man his own earth to stand on, and thereby—the race for the first time enabled to enter unhampered upon the use of its God-given possibilities—achieve a progress unexampled and marvelous.”
The above quote is from Sylvester Baxter’s introduction, “The Author of ‘Looking Backward’”. According to Baxter, Bellamy had a steadfast faith in the intrinsic goodness of human nature, a sense of the meaning of love in its true and universal sense. Bellamy was born in 1850 in Massachusetts, the son of a beloved clergyman and grandson of an early pastor of Springfield. Among his ancestors was Dr. Joseph Bellamy, a distinguished theologian, friend of Jonathan Edwards, and although the author outgrew the religious practices of his family, they still marked his views with a strongly anti-materialistic and spiritual cast.
As I read, I found similarities between Bellamy’s ideals and these early years of the 21st century. An ethical purpose dominated his ideas, and he held that a merely material prosperity would not be worth the working for, as a social ideal. I look at society in the recent decades—1990s and 2000s especially—as ones with a focus on material prosperity, and the current society—the 2010s—as beginning to focus more on working for the betterment of mankind, rather than the largest net-worth.
As I have noticed in what I’ve read about creative types such as artists and writers, the author’s start in life was somewhat divergent. He attended college but did not graduate; he studied law in Germany but didn’t practice. His travels to Hawaii by way of Panama preceded his decision to pursue a literary career, beginning as a journalist. He began his literary career by writing imaginative short stories for magazines, one review calling the author “the lineal intellectual descendant” of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
When Looking Backward was the sensation of the year, newspapers claimed that Bellamy was “posing for notoriety” (the meaning of the word “notoriety” in 1890 apparently meaning fame, rather than a bad reputation). But Sylvester Baxter believes that the author was indifferent to all the offers of advertising, lecturing, publishing opportunities that would have earned him large sums of money.
While writing his last book, Equality, an elaboration and sequel to Looking Backward, his health gave way. In 1897 he and his family went to Denver, seeking a cure for consumption. During that year, letters came from mining camps, farms, and villages wanting to do something for him to show their love. He was 2000 miles from home, yet found himself among friends because in ten years his book had sold a million copies in U.S. and England, and had been translated into many languages and dialects.
He returned to his home in New England and died in 1898. At the simple service held, some passages from his books were read as a fitting expression in his own words of that hope for the bettering and uplifting of humanity, which was the real passion of his noble life.
“If we love one another, God dwells in us and his love is perfected in us…He that loves his brother dwells in the light…If any man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar…he that does not love, does not know God. Here is the very distillation of Christ’s teaching as to the conditions of entering on the divine life.”
You can find printed copies of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 on Amazon, and free ebooks of this book at Gutenberg.org.
[More of this 19th century author’s vision of the “new order of the year 2000” coming in Part 3 of my review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887]
At a recent used book sale I bought an intriguing book written by Edward Bellamy. It was published in 1887, with the premise of having been written in the year 2000. The author imagines how the country would look in another century if certain idealistic industrial, political and economic changes were made to enable the best possible society for all citizens. Bellamy felt that instead of writing a non-fiction analysis and critique of the country’s economy, it would be more interesting to tell the story of a fictional character who falls asleep and wakes up over one hundred years later to find a changed society. One of my reasons for searching out books over a hundred years old is similar to this author’s reasons for writing it. I want to know how the world has changed, and I want to understand how people thought, what their priorities were, what their values were and how they compare to ours today.
This book has the added benefit for me of being written as fiction, which I find a much easier form for conveying ideas, perspectives and attitudes. I don’t find the topics of industry and economics interesting, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about that part of it. But I do find it fascinating to read the author’s and main characters’ discussions on those topics, and their comparisons between the two time periods. I’ve probably learned more from Looking Backward about the industrial history of the country than in any social studies class I ever endured.
The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, and The Riverside Press, Cambridge. On the copyright page is the phrase “Four hundred and forty-seventh thousand”. Could this be the number of copies? Sylvester Baxter, Boston journalist and urban planner at the time, wrote the introduction. The front cover and first blank page were signed “W.J. Wilde, Red Deer”, which I assume refers to Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, a town about 150 kilometers north of Calgary. It is called the Memorial Edition because this particular edition was copyrighted by Emma S. Bellamy in 1915 after the author’s death. The book begins with an “Author’s Preface” (which is not the author Edward Bellamy, but the author of the “book within a book”, Julian West), supposedly written on December 26, 2000, in Boston. “Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century, enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is no doubt difficult…to realize that the present organization of society is…less than one century old.”
The ancient industrial system “with all its shocking social consequences” had been expected to last to the end of time. “How strange and wellnigh incredible does it seem that so prodigious a moral and material transformation as has taken place since then could have been accomplished in so brief an interval!” The language is so eloquent, music to my cerebral ears.
To summarize the beginning, when a 19th century man named Julian West awakes to find himself in the 21st century under the care of a family in Boston, he begins to explore, question and discuss the changes he sees with the family members. The first and most obvious change he notices from an upper balcony of a three-story home is that the city is obviously now prosperous, full of fine houses, open squares filled with trees, statues and fountains, and public buildings of colossal size and architectural grandeur.
As he questions his host, he learns that the government now operates many locations of the exact same stores for people to obtain food and other consumables. They do not use money; instead, they use a “credit card”. The funds backing the credit card are provided by the government and are distributed equally to every citizen. Employment, then, is not the source of one’s income and buying power; it is each person’s contribution to the cogs of the wheel running an orderly society.
Some refer to this book as utopian, some call the principles in the book socialist or Marxist, many note that it was one of the most popular, important books of its day. According to SparticusEducational.com, the novel was highly successful and sold over 1,000,000 copies. It was the third largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur.
As Bellamy’s biographer, Franklin Rosemont, has pointed out: “The social transformation described in Looking Backward has in turn transformed, or rather liberated, the human personality. In Bellamy’s vision of the year 2000, selfishness, greed, malice, insanity, hypocrisy, lying, apathy, the lust for power, the struggle for existence, and anxiety as to basic human needs are all things of the past.”
I knew the name Bellamy sounded familiar. The author was apparently the cousin of Francis Bellamy, famous for creation of the Pledge of Allegiance. You can find printed copies of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 on Amazon, and free ebooks of Edward Ballamy’s book at Gutenberg.org.
[More to come in Part 2 of my review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 by Edward Bellamy!]
Even though I don’t necessarily need to read all the gems that I find at the book sales—it’s enough to surround myself with them—I do read them. Now, to be honest, if a book is more than 50 or 100 years old, after quickly thumbing through it to touch and smell the pages, I generally don’t feel excited enough to sit down and read it on the spot. I confess that I expect to find it dry, pedantic, colorless or irrelevant. But I am almost always wrong.
I find surprisingly relevant, valuable words, stories and messages written by authors with extraordinary depth, thoughtfulness, insight, and wholesomeness, and a different internal perspective than many contemporary authors. Their attitudes and perspectives very often inspire and elevate my own.
Some antique books are actually difficult to read because they are visually and verbally dense, but they are well worth the effort. An example is R.D. Blackmoor’s Lorna Doone, written in 1869. The first time I ever saw this book was at a library in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, where we were camping. I had an afternoon to relax so I decided to see what kind of love stories people in the 19th century wrote. But the “old” definition of romance is not focused entirely on a love story. I was surprised and at first disappointed that the Romance of Exmoor was not the kind of romance that Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer wrote.
Lorna Doone falls under the definition of “a novel depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.” I muddled through the first several chapters and then realized I didn’t know what was going on with the characters or the plot. I had to restart it about four times, but after that, something magical happened and I got into the language. Then I couldn’t put it down! I encourage you to give it a try, in the original or a more recent version. It’s a story of loyalty, love, courage, heroism—and it’s not just the men who risk their lives.
Another example is one published in 1894, Titus, a Comrade of the Cross, a book my mom gave me. Apparently, the original publisher of this book offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could produce a manuscript that would set a child’s heart on fire for Christ. In six weeks, the demand was so great for Florence Morse Kingsley’s book that they printed 200,000 additional copies. Can you imagine that in 1894?
For years I was thrilled enough to just look at the unique cover and text. But again, once I finally started reading it and got a feel for the language, I was immersed in a suspenseful adventure. In the midst of the gripping plot, I discovered that a whole chunk of the pages was missing (don’t tell Mom!), but I just picked it up on the next available page and devoured the rest of it. In fact, I felt such admiration and affection for one of the characters, we ended up using his name for the middle name of one of our children.
Are you a kindred old-book-loving spirit? Leave me a comment, or a Like, so I can find you!
I enjoy everything about old books: hunting for them, inhaling the smell of leather and studying them: their covers, publishers, inscriptions, signs of aging, and knowing that I am holding something that was on this earth in a different century. I don’t necessarily need to read all the gems that I find; it’s enough to surround myself with them. But reading them is the frosting on the cake!
In my first post on old books, I mentioned McGuffey’s Eclectic Fourth Reader, published in 1853 by Winthrop B Smith. After digging it out of storage (behind some other books), I thumbed through it and was curious to know what exactly the students were learning from those readers at that time. So I started on page one and made the commitment to read the entire book (over 300 pages of small font). It was a big commitment because I assumed that the lessons were going to be hitting-over-the-head moralizing, boring history, monotonous poetry and irrelevant essays.
But I was in for a pleasant surprise. I wish my school reading assignments (and my children’s) had been as full of such disturbing, dramatic, eye-opening fiction and non-fiction as these. They would motivate a student to read. Even the moralizing stories were great. Yes, there was tough slogging through some, but I was usually rewarded by the end of the piece.
I admit that I skipped most of the diction, articulation, pronunciation and vocabulary lessons. But from time to time, I would read those, and I found it humorous to see how the “incorrect” pronunciations were a Southern U.S. accent:
“E-spe-cial-ly, not ‘spe-cial-ly…
Gov-erns, not gov-uns…
Win-dow-blind, not win-der-bline”
As I was noting my favorite selections, I was curious to know a bit more about the authors, and found most of them well-represented on the internet. One that stood out for me was The Steamboat Trial, by Jacob Abbott, and not so easy to find online, so I’ve included the first 2 pages here, and the last 2 pages here.
Here are a few other poems, plays and essays well worth checking out: Washing Day, by Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld, Shylock (from The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare), Remarkable Preservation by Professor Wilson, and Religion the Only Basis of Society by William Ellery Channing. Hope you find something that grabs you!
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.