Old Books

There seems to be a bit of a reading and publishing shift happening at the moment. Everyone is talking about iPads, Kindles and e-books. Never one to follow a trend, I am instead going to write about old books.

I love old books! I love new ones too — goodness knows I certainly buy enough of them — but there’s just something extra special about old books… in fact, the older the better. The smell! The feel! The history! There’s nothing better than browsing the bookshelves of a second-hand store and coming across some discarded gem.

The favourite of my collection is an illustrated, hardcover 1908 edition of A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur by Mark Twain. I bought this book back in 1999 when on honeymoon in the UK. I found it in White Spider Books, a little second hand bookshop in Surrey. It cost £12.50. It had seemed like a good investment, given that I had never read the book but had always wanted to. And it was… I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my teenage obsession with John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy. Thanks to numerous second hand bookstore visits over the years, I’ve got several different editions of these books, the earliest being a 1970 paperback edition of the first book, The White Mountains.

I’ve even been known to occasionally purchase an old book simply because its old and I like the look of it. One such book is J Cuthbert Hadden’s The Bohemian Girl, which appears to be part of a series called The Great Operas. It’s a short book about Balfe’s opera, The Bohemian Girl, and includes a summary of the plot, a critique of the music, a history of the opera’s creation and production, and a biography of Michael William Balfe. It’s a small hardcover edition (measuring 120 X 150cm) with lovely colour illustrations throughout. The dust jacket is torn in half, but the book is otherwise in good condition. There is no publication date, although the text mentions an event in 1906 as being recent. I paid a grand total of $0.50 for this one.

My latest purchase is a 1912 hardcover edition of Lyra Heroica, A book of Verse for Boys. I found it in an op shop while browsing the children’s books. It stood out as the only hardcover in a shelf full of battered paperbacks. So I picked it up, and read the preface.

“To set forth, as only art can, the beauty and the joy of living, the beauty and the blessedness of death, the glory of battle and adventure, the nobility of devotion—to a cause, an ideal, a passion even—the dignity of resistance, the sacred quality of patriotism, that is my ambition here.”

After reading this sentence by William Ernest Henley, who selected and arranged the poems, I just had to buy the book. It cost me the princely sum of $4.00.

There are many other old books in my collection. And no doubt, there will be many more in the future. Oh, and in case you’re wondering — I don’t own an iPad or a Kindle. 🙂

Anyone else out there like old books? Leave a comment and tell us about your oldest book.

And tune in next time for a post about food.

Catch ya later,  George

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