I Love Old Books!

As I mentioned in a previous post, my strategy when tackling huge used book sales is to go to the old books first. But I wonder why? What is it that makes the old books such a delight to me? It was probably my mom who instilled in me a love for old things that stand the test of time, and how I appreciate that, because otherwise I may have skipped the old for the new and missed such joys!

What really excites me is that a hundred-year-old book feels like my little piece of history; these bundles of paper have survived—with little or no aging—for a century! What else do we have that is a hundred years old? For example, can you imagine that the book you hold in your hand with the hundred-year-old copyright was ON THIS EARTH when the Titanic sank, all during World War I (did a soldier have your book in his backpack?), when the first talking movies were invented, when Alexander Fleming was discovering penicillin (could he have owned it?) and during the stock market crash of 1929?

Who bought it first? And how did it get from its first owner to its most recent owner (me)? Did it get handed down to a relative, who loaned it to a friend, who lost it while traveling on a ship and it was eventually found by another passenger years later, who kept it safe and sound in a drawer until giving it to a library, which eventually put it on a bargain table where someone bought it for an antique-lover, who finally donated it to the Calgary Crossroads Book Sale where I bought it?

Here is the first really old book I found, McGuffey’s Eclectic Fourth Reader, published in 1853 by Winthrop B Smith. In about 1990 I was browsing around one of the wonderful used book stores on 16 Avenue NW (that is no longer there), and when I told the owner that I collected old school readers, he said he didn’t have any upstairs, but I could look around in the basement. I picked through boxes and bags of books and found this gem. I think I paid $5 for it.

The spine is in rough shape, and it shows another document under the spine and the top left corner of the front cover. If anyone knows what that practice was for, let me know.

The front cover has a name stamped on it, my best guess being “J. Bruce Smith, HC CALGARY”. It makes me wonder if the schools stamped each book with the student’s name, or if that particular student stamped his own name on it. Or is the Smith on the cover related to the publisher Smith?

Inside the cover on the first page is an inscription (I love inscriptions!). It looks like “Elias N. ___, Jan. 3rd, 1859”.

It actually looks like 1839 to me, but in the text it says it was published in 1853.

The Table of Contents is filled with “Directions for Reading” and interesting-looking Prose and Poetry Lessons, some by authors we still read today.   Here is a readable version of the Table of Contents.

In the back there is a refund notice: “Refund 2.50 if returned before June 20, 1932, A.W. ___”. It’s interesting to think that around 1932 the book was already 80 years old, so perhaps it was in the reference section of a library.

Wow, this book was around during the California Gold Rush, and in the same year the Washington Territory was created from the Oregon Territory. Maybe some of the children in the covered wagons did their schooling from my book. Vincent Van Gogh was born, in 1953, and Napoleon was married that same year. This book on my shelf was published almost 10 years BEFORE the U.S. Civil War began. Did a ten-year-old student worry about his father fighting in Gettysburg while turning these very pages?

Enough pondering. I would so love to hear about some of your favorite old books! I hope you’ll post a comment below, or even send me photos, so we can trade stories.

Used Book Sales

THANK YOU CALGARY CROSSROADS MARKET BOOK SALE (BLACKFOOT AND 26TH AVENUE) FOR HELPING TO SUPPORT SERVANTS ANONYMOUS.

Ever since the end of winter I’ve looked forward to the giant used book sales held every spring. I admit that I go for the joy of being surrounded by so many books and so many book lovers. And this year the shoppers included plenty of young girls and boys who were just as intense and excited as their parents at finding their own treasures. That was a bonus thrill.

I don’t need any more books, of course. I need less books because I’ve started to set stacks of books beside my bookcase. But I do now have a strategy when I go to these sales. I head straight for the “antique” book section, and there I focus on the old children’s books first, and then all the rest. After that, I browse quickly through the other sections, slowing down at the health, Christian and writing books, and settling in at the children’s books.

Last Friday I used some banked time to leave work 2 hours early in order to beat the weekend rush to the first weekend of the SAS sale at Crossroads Market. And the place was already packed!

Here is one of my new treasures:

     Have you ever seen anything like this?

It’s a Christmas Keepsake “book” that opens up to a collection of Christmas ornaments…

…which are small, very-condensed classic books.

It has a publication date of 2000, and is well-protected by plastic film that can be opened and closed as you look at the books.

It can be used as an advent calendar…

…you find each day’s book, read it, and then hang it on the tree. Ingenious!

I’ll be posting more of my gems soon.

Now let me ask you…

…do you have some gems that you’ve picked up while treasure-hunting? Do share!  Titles, years, photos…we want to enjoy them with you!

Warm weather means book sales are sprouting up

With the temperatures rising—finally!—the rummage sales are blossoming all over town, and my favorites are the huge city-wide used book sales. What could be better than 100,000 used books all in one place at bargain prices?! I don’t have to actually need any books to get excited about these, I just like being there to look at the variety of books, surrounded by all the volumes and all the people who love them. I especially like to check out the old books. Then my challenge is to keep in mind the limited space on my bookshelves and the many books I’ve acquired but haven’t yet read.

Calgary Reads held their annual sale on May 14th, and handing money to the volunteers of this worthy organization was a delight, knowing that it would fund tutors to help children around the city improve their reading skills.
Lucky for me I was looking primarily for children’s books, which were 50¢ or a dollar, and I had my “urban shopping cart” with me to carry all my treasures around with me. I am proud to say that I stuck to my plan of buying only books that I can not easily utilize from the public library and that are directly related to writing projects I am actually working on (as opposed to all manner of books and reference materials that I might possibly need one day for another future project).

Since I was downtown at the Calgary Reads sale, I decided to stop by Fair’s Fair, one of the largest used bookstores in town, and drop off the books that had been on the backseat of my car for a while. Another successful browsing experience: the credit I got was $2 less than my purchases.

Coming up in June is the Calgary Book Drive and Sale. According to the Calgary Herald newspaper, any books not sold may find new homes with the help of an online seller, Giggil. Giggil pays for books to be shipped to them, sells them online, and pays you monthly as your items sell.

All proceeds from the Calgary Book Sale will go to Raise a Reader and Servants Anonymous Society, and I’m thrilled to see that again, children’s books will be 50¢, and other books will cost no more than $3. Looking forward to it!