I enjoy old books. The smell. The feel of the paper. The leather, if it remains or was ever there.
One of my favourite old books is a 1908 “Gray’s New Manual of Botany” (7th edition, Illustrated – A Handbook of the Flowering plants and ferns of the Central and Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada). True, it’s falling apart but that just endears it to me even more. I found it in a used book store long ago and still regard it as one of my greatest finds. I expect it to be a little abandoned to entropy, after all it’s 100 years old now. But its amazing how useful it still is. I have a copy of the 8th edition, but I still prefer this one.
Another favourite is my grandmother’s “Livre de Piete de la Jeune Fille” which she received in 1929 and which was printed in Quebec. It has her name in calligraphy as well as the date on the inside cover. It is also falling apart but it has many old prayer cards in it that I love to look at. It really comes from another age and retains elements of her life in it.
And a final favourite: “Two Hundred Poems for Boys and Girls” which was reprinted in 1929 and was given to a certain Laura M. (Billie) Grant of Shallow Lake, Ontario, on April 26, 1930. This one isn’t sentimental or particularly useful. I just like how Laura (alias “Broken Ankle Billi” as page 129 is marked), whoever she was or is, annotated the book with drawings and notes that are fun to peruse. Each stanza of Alfred Noyes famous “The Highwayman”, for example, has its own drawing: a road by moonlight, a hat, a whip, a ‘black-eyed daughter’, etc. The poetry isn’t great: there is Browning, Scott, Keats, Burns and Tennyson, etc. but it’s not the modern poetry I prefer. It’s that Miss Grant imbued the book with her impressions that I enjoy.
I’m not a collector of books at all. These are probably the oldest ones I own. I just like these three old books.
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