Old Books Discovered Anew

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I have a collection of antique books. I find it fascinating why it is that people collect the things that they do. What draws them to some object, they often tell me, is that someone gave them the first of whatever they collect and they found themselves wanting more. My Aunt Jo (Yolanda) gave me her collected works of Mark Twain and of Charles Dickens years ago. I was honored to have them. She said, “I am giving them to you because I know you will treasure them.” What did she see in me to know that? It is true that I am a reader, but I am not necessarily a student of the classics. Nevertheless, I have gone on to expanding my collection. I won’t spend much money on a book. For me that takes the fun out of collecting.

At first I collected children’s books. I particularly liked those that were written in. It tells me a little about their original owners. I know, for example, that my copy of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew was once owned by Sharon Willard. One book, The Pink Motel, was written in by the author:   “Dear Mary Lidborn, please have a pleasant trip to The Pink Motel! And have a safe and healthy return. Carol Ryrie Brink”. I have a copy of the book Heidi by Johanna Spyri that has written on its cover page: “Harris Ayer Wells. 4 Upper Winipole, London, England. June 1907.”  One book A Sundae with Judy once belonged to the St. Cloud Public Library and was last checked out by Lena Pesch, due to be returned on January 4, 1988. It also bears a stamp reading “For Sale”, so I know it is not still due back to the library.

I also have a collection of old prayer books. I may have actually bought some of these, but I’ve also inherited a few from Bernie’s family which has always had a more religious bent than my own. When I go to garage sales or antique shops I am always drawn to the books.

I haven’t read many of the books I have in my collection I am sorry to say. But yesterday I took a closer look at a set my daughter gave me during one of her moves. It is a 12 volume set entitled America issued by the Americanization Department, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. I have had this set for several years and just yesterday pulled out the first book and started to read it. The title page says “America: Great Crises in our History Told by Its Makers, A Library of Original Sources.” The books are a collection of letters and writings by those who made history in our country. The introduction suggests that most historians “have not succeeded in telling the truth. Often the personal desires of the historian to have his readers share his point of view, has led him to color his narrative. And frequently he lacked data.” It goes on to say: “In the present historical series, the reader has a whole library of original sources, each document dealing with an outstanding event in the development of America. So far as possible the events are described by the principal persons who participated. They are men who should know, and if anyone does, what happened. In some cases, they made it happen!” Each volume covers a certain time span, the first the years between 1000 and 1562, the last 1916 to 1925.The first entry is “The Voyages of the Norsemen (Including An Account of the Birth of the First White Child in America). From the Saga of Eric the Red.” There is an account by Marco Polo of his trips to Japan and Java and letters by Christopher Columbus.” One of the last in volume 12 is “The First World Flight” recounted by the pilot Lowell H. Smith. I wonder if the VFW published a later collection.

I notice that these are writings of men. I notice also that they are by historic leaders and I read once that real history is found in what the common people experience as a result of the actions of “history makers”.

These books have not been read before. The edges of pages are still connected together and I will have to slice them as I go or I will only be able to read every other page. I am looking forward to this new adventure.