Monday, February 17, 2014


bibliophily redux

My winter reading project (Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain - I still can't decide how to refer to him) isn't the only thing going on, book-wise, right now.  In early February our neck of the woods experienced one sunny almost-warm Saturday morning, and Ryan and I took advantage of it by traveling to a nearby town to participate in a familiar ritual.  Half work and half pure fun.  We used to plan almost every weekend around events like this, and you know, almost every weekend we could find one, somewhere.  I speak, of course, of the venerable friends-of-the-library book sale:

This particular one happens on the first Saturday of every month.  The library isn't huge but it does have a very supportive and bookish community surrounding it, and so donations to the friends-of-the-library group for the book sale are quite good on a regular basis.  We go once every few months and always find something.  Or rather, lots of somethings.  This time around we waited for the doors to open for half an hour and it was such a pleasure to stand outside in the sun and not feel freezing.  We spent part of the time talking about how different buying used books is today, compared to twenty years ago when we started seriously hunting for them, to buy, keep, read, and resell.  Pre-internet, do I even need to say it?  In "the old days" between five and ten local book dealers would have been waiting in line with us.  We all chatted and caught up and gently (and sometimes not so gently) gossiped about doings in the book world.  It was truly congenial, and I miss those times.  Of course, things changed a bit when the doors opened, because we were all there for the same reasons.  The books.  

And, despite the promising "CLASSICS" sign above, the books being offered have changed, too.  The friends group naturally wants to maximize profits for the library.  This is right and good, and is as it should be.  So their volunteers sell the better books online.  They check book prices online too, and subsequently books are priced higher than they used to be, for those books that actually do make it out onto the shelves in the basement sale room pictured above (I did buy that book I was looking at, by the way).  So, the days of finding truly great deals may be long gone, but it seems like something always turns up, somehow.  At this sale, I bought three cartons of books for a hundred dollars.  I put some books back which were priced at five dollars each, but I bought a few at that price, too.  But most of the ones I bought were a dollar or two each - general stock for my book booth at the antiques mall and a pile of books to read.  I did find two signed hardcovers - one by historian David McCullough and one by novelist Michael Chabon.  The friends group had not noticed that either of these books were inscribed by their authors, and so I paid two dollars each for them. When I wrote my check I rounded the amount up, to compensate the library a bit and alleviate my vestigial guilt (which was faint but persistent).  Overall it was a lovely morning, and we came away buoyed up at the fact that there are still books in the world, and lots of them.

Speaking of which, I guess I do have to talk about Samuel Clemens (there, that settles it) again for just a moment.  May I mention some book-love, from his English Journals of 1872?  In them, in an appendix in Mark Twain's Letters Volume 5, he describes his time at the British Museum's incredible Reading Room (p.598):

"Nobody comes bothering around me - nobody elbows me - all the room & all the light I want under this huge dome - no disturbing noises - & people standing ready to bring me a copy of pretty much any book that was ever printed under the sun - & if I choose to go wandering about the long corridors & galleries of the great building, the secrets of all the Earth & all the ages are laid open to me.  I am not capable of expressing my gratitude for the British Museum - it seems as if I do not know any but little words and weak ones."

There it is, in a nutshell, this book-love.  Our little basement book sale certainly isn't the Reading Room, but it still contains multitudes.   

Yesterday at noon our local Humane Society opened the doors to its annual sale. I would estimate that 40 people were waiting in line including a few dealers. Nice surprise when we got inside as this year all hardcovers and trade PBs were $2.00 and paperbacks $1.00. I only spent $33 on books and another #22 for DVDs. Going back this afternoon. Usually later on the second day you can buy a bag of books for $10.
Nice, Kent! I remember going to an annual summer library sale many years back, and quickly realizing in the initial flurry of beginning to shop that almost all the books were fifty cents or a dollar each - marked down from the higher prices of years past because the library had received so many donations and wanted to sell sell sell. And so we bought bought bought! As you see, I still think fondly of that great day. Thanks for your comment.
"I did buy that book I was looking at, by the way"
which was....?? (Please)
It is "The Poetics of Space" by Gaston Bachelard - a very nice softcover reprint (

And the book in my arm is very, verrry wonderful, I bought that too - "A Graphic Muse: Prints by Contemporary American Women" - art by some favorites of mine, including Vija Celmins, Jane Freilicher, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, etc. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to read an art book all about women. The general art history textbook I had to read in college, many years ago now, contained maybe one. Ugh.
The first old book I ever bought was at a Congregation Church's annual book sale in Waterville, Maine. I was 12. It was a pristine Scribner's Classic with N.C. Wyeth illustrations. Fifty cents! Not the rarest of old books(not that I knew that), but it felt like I had found a real treasure. A humble start, but I never looked back. Book love? Oh, yeah!
I wonder if I was at that book sale! I lived in Waterville for a few years, in the '80s, although I have to say I hadn't discovered the world of used and rare books yet. I did grow up in a house full of books, so I don't remember what my own first purchase was. If it had been one of those Scribner's Classics I would be pleased. Heck, I'd be pleased to find a few of them at a book sale today. Thanks for checking in.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?