23 November 2010

Weekly Geeks: Antique Books

Weekly Geeks

The other day I was noticing the old books on my book shelf. Old, meaning books that were "born" a long long time ago. Books that were published AND printed a long long time ago. (Not simply books that have been sitting on our shelves forever!)And it made me wonder what old books other readers have in their collection. So this week, write a post sharing with us what old antique books you may have on your shelves, and tell us the story behind them. Did you inherit from a relative? Are you a collector of old and rare books? Did you just discover a certain book in a used book store and couldn't pass it up? What's the very oldest book you have? Do you even like old books? Or do they creep you out? Do you read and enjoy your old books, or is it more a "look and don't touch" thing?
I love old books. They bring a history with them which you can’t get in a paperback fresh off the shelves. Especially when they contain inscriptions or second-hand bookstore labels or other marks of their past, they invite you to wonder about who read them before you, and how they ended up moving on to someone else’s collection.

I can’t afford actual antiques, so my definition of an “old” book is “significantly older than I am”. The oldest on my shelves is a copy of Jonathan Swift’s Journal to Stella printed in 1948, which I picked up for $0.50 at a charity book sale. It’s more vintage than antique, and I’m not sure that the cover is intact - it may once have had a dust jacket - and the cloth it’s bound with is a dull shade of pink.

I love it anyway. It had nearly sixty years of adventures before arriving on my shelves, and I know that I will keep it and look after it for the rest of my lifetime so that one day it can resume its journey and be loved by someone else. And because it’s vintage rather than a true antique I feel free to treat it a little cavalierly - toss it into my bag to read on the train.

I would never do that with a really old volume, but so long as I wasn’t afraid it would crumble beneath my fingers I would read it. That’s what books are for! Outside of archives and museums, there’s no point in owning a book you can’t curl up with and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I love old books, they have such a great sense of history about them! I have an old cope of Tom Sawyer (I can't remember the exact date, but it's just a few years after it was originally published) that I got for 10 cents at a garage sale. It was given as a Christmas gift, and has the sweetest message written on the first page! The other old books I have are cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother, who got them from her mother. The oldest one is from 1882, but my favorite is a huge leather-bound book from 1936. I have pictures, and more of the story behind them, in this blog post: http://ksbooks.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/my-love-for-cookbooks-in-photos/

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776