I went to my favorite library sale and an estate sale over the past weekend and found more interesting items at one time than I have found in a while. Most of the items I found are outside of the areas in which I specialize — Western Americana, pioneer women, and Dante Alighieri. You never can tell when you will find something good at a library sale or an estate sale. That’s why a bookseller always has to be on the lookout, even though she may often come home empty-handed.
Below are two interesting items from my recent book hunting expedition. Both are related to aviation. Both feature rather unlikely aviators. Both are signed by their respective authors. What are the odds of that? I have no idea, but it seems unusual.
Neither of these books are in any of my areas of specialty — Western Americana, Pioneer Women, and Dante Alighieri. Why did I buy them? I guess that Neta Snook Southern, an early female aviator who gave Amelia Earheart flying lessons, is a pioneer in her field, so she kind of falls under one of my specialties. I just bought the books because they are both first editions, have dustjackets, they cover interesting topics about unlikely subjects, and they are inscribed by the authors. That relatively low library sale price didn’t hurt, either. I think they can be sold for a reasonable profit.
The Flying Priest was commissioned by Pope Pius XI to minister to the people living within a 1,650,000 square mile territory that extends from the eastern shores of Canada westward to the 102nd longitude in mid-Canada. Its southern boundary runs across the middle of Hudson Bay; the northern limit was the North Pole. That’s a lot of ground to cover so he did it by flying in an airplane!
From the dustjacket: “Neta Snook Southern was one of the pioneers of aviation. Back in the days before World War I, when airplanes were covered with fabric and pilots were considered daredevils, Mrs. Southern was one of the first women in the air. In 1917, she took up a career in aviation, becoming a commercial pilot and a flight instructor.” Her most famous student: Amelia Earhart.
My favorite quote from the dustjacket: “We learn about the heart-shattering moment when you realize your plane isn’t going to clear the trees at the end of the runway; what it was like to zoom upside down over a crowd of cheering spectators; and how a woman felt when she had to fight to prove her worth in a world that belonged very much to men.”
I had two other exciting finds over the weekend. The first is a first edition Big Sur by Jack Kerouac in lovely white dustjacket. (This is the book I was covering with a mylar dustjacket protector when I cut my finger the other day. Not to worry. Tom and Huck saved the day by getting the dustjacket far away from my bleeding finger.) Why did I buy a modern first, another area outside of my specialty? The short answer is that the condition and the price were right.
The second find is a really interesting piece of history that I look forward to researching and cataloguing: it is a scrapbook containing maps, documents, and newspaper clippings from 1898 and it was put together by the navigator of a U.S. Navy ship that was involved in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War. (Are you familiar with the phrase, “You may fire when ready.”? Well, that was the command of Admiral Dewey to Captain Gridley during the Battle of Manila Bay.) The scrapbook is in a very beat up (spine missing, edges ragged) and very unassuming ledger-type book, and it was just waiting among the 60,000 other books at the sale for someone to pick it up and realize what an amazing trove of information awaits inside. When at a sale with a lot of books, I always take the time to look at books whose covers have no titles or illustrations. These type of books have sometimes been among the best of my finds.
I also considered it my duty to rescue this book from the dreck (other library sale books in poor condition) by which it was surrounded. Even though this item also falls outside of my normal areas of specialty, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to hold it, read it, and research it.