Collecting old books

I decided that I’m a collector of old books.  It just kind of happened.  I like the classic stories and have some that my mother gave me from long ago.  You don’t have to have an old copy to still enjoy the classics but I like the old copies.  So, one day a friend called me and said the library was GIVING away old books they didn’t want anymore.  WOW…free books, I thought.  I headed over there and found not just free books but great, old books that were unappreciated, and headed to the dump if I and others didn’t rescue them.

I called my husband and he soon joined me and the kids looking through the books.  I was fascinated with the old ones…from the early 1900s.  One that I liked the most was about the Gordon family of Mississippi.  The book is in our storage unit right now so I can’t tell you too much about it but I do remember that James Gordon was a plantation owner, civil war hero and statesman.  He also wrote poetry.  The book had his poetry collection.  On the inside page was a note from his wife to a friend that was to receive the book as a gift.  It was dated as well.  Soon as we move next and I can get the book back into a bookcase I’ll update this post with the information.  Meanwhile, I looked up the family on the internet and found several sites of really great information.  You can go to: www.gordonsoflochinvar.com and www.prairieghosts.com/lochinvar/html.

Last weekend my neighbor had a yard sale.  She had several old books, but I snatched up the oldest and one of most interest to me.  It is called Fifty Famous Stories Retold, by James Baldwin.  Copyright date is 1986.  It contains great stories such as King Alfred and the Cakes, King John and the Abbot, The Ungrateful Soldier, How Napoleon crossed the Alps, The Sword of Damocles.  The book is in surprisingly good condition although the cover does have some dirt and a few mildew spots.

The week before, my husband and I happened on another yard sale here on the Key.  The seller is a writer and former magazine editor.  Her husband is an artist.  She was selling her book collection (or some of it) to downsize.  She had tables filled with first editions and autographed books along with other, recent titles.  We bought a few.  Gary picked up a first edition copy of Lawrence of Arabia and I chose two books.  One is a first edition of The Fireside Book of Dog Stories edited by Jack Goodman, with an introduction by James Thurber.  The publication date is 1943.  I like the dog stories.  Dog stories are popular with my boys.  But the real reason I bought the book was because it was written during WWII.  The publisher, Simon and Schuster, Inc., had written the following on the back of the title page:

“About the Appearance of Books in Wartime:

A recent ruling by the War Production Board has curtailed the use of paper by book publishers in 1943.  In line with this ruling and in order to conserve materials and manpower, we are cooperating by: 1. using lighter-weight paper which reduces the bulk of our books substantially. 2. printing books with smaller margins and with more words to each page.  Results: fewer pages per book.

Slimmer and smaller books will save paper and plate metal and labor.  We are sure that readers will understand the publishers’ desire to cooperate as fully as possible with the objectives of the War Production Board and our government.”

I hope that rewriting this in my blog doesn’t violate any copyright laws, but I wanted to let readers know about book printing during WWII.  I thought it was pretty cool and hadn’t seen this before in any other books of that time.  I have a few from this year. 

The other book I bought was History of the United States House of Representatives.  It was written in  1962.  Chairman Omar Burleson of the Committee on House Administration writes in the preface: “It is somewhat surprising that a complete history of the House of Representatives has not heretofore been prepared”.  Congress authorized, in H. Con. Res 385 which was passed September 15, 1961 (just days after I was born) that only 2000 copies be printed.  I’ve got one!  I searched the internet to see if the Senate had authorized a similar project but didn’t find anything on the topic. 

Here is a sampling of other books my husband and I own that are over 50 years old:

Paul Bunyan Swings His Axe by Dell J. McCormick (15th printing 1955); Conqueror of the Seas, The Story of Magellan by Stefan Zweig (1938); Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Grosset & Dunlap 1946); Fabulous New Orleans by Lyle Saxon (5th printing 1930); Pathfinders by Land and Sea by Elmer Green (1932); and Your America by Grace Kohl (revised edition 1948). 

I hope more people would save the old books.  Sure new ones look great on the bookshelf but the original copies and original editions are, to me, a blessing to still have around.  But if you do want all new copies, I’ll take your old ones.

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