Dejected after a day spent pounding the pavement in search of good old books, I went home and had a bit of chocolate and wondered why I didn’t find any books worth buying for resale. I couldn’t come up with any real answers. Sometimes book hunters come home empty handed. It’s those times when we return empty-handed that make the thrill of finding a good book so much fun. Good books are out there, but the really good books are not out there in abundance. It takes patience and skill to find the good books, but if you search long enough and hard enough and take the time to learn how to recognize them, you will find them. Still, it’s disappointing to spend a whole day scouting books only to find nothing worthwhile.
Though distressed, the next morning I resolved to do what must be done: I arose and went to another book sale, maintaining that if I could not find one good book to purchase at any of the four sales I had attended Friday, the good books would all be waiting for me at Saturday’s lone sale. (I’ve been told that unflagging optimism is necessary for booksellers, and if that’s so, I have it in spades!)
I headed for one of my favorite places to book scout. It’s not my favorite because I always find good books there. It’s my favorite because it’s located deep in the basement of a very old and very pretty building. Here’s what I’ve said about it previously:
The County Historical Association in the area where I live has an open shop in the basement of a very old (about 100 years old, and that’s old for this area, which was pretty much leveled by the 1906 earthquake) and beautiful courthouse building. The Old Courthouse, as it is commonly called, was recently restored and is currently a history museum for the county. While the upper floors feature a beautiful dome, stained glass, and large murals, the basement has stone walls and a warren of rooms filled with books of all sorts. I like hunting for books here because it’s often hit or miss. Sometimes I go and I find no books I want to buy. Other times, I feel as though I have stepped into a fine library, finding wonderful collections, association copies, or decorative bindings donated by denizens of my county. The fun is not knowing ahead of time which type of visit it will be.
Either way, it’s always a nice visit, because it’s a beautiful building. It’s quiet in the basement, and you can see the shoes of passers-by out the windows. Mid-day on a weekday there, among the stacks of books, it feels like being in a cave, surrounded by treasure that is there only for you, while the rest of the world goes on in complete oblivion to the plunder below.
I made my way down into the dark basement rooms with all haste, anticipating, hoping, praying, and wishing I could find at least one good book, if not a spectacular one.
I was not disappointed:
This is a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, together with the supplemental volumes that make up the Twelfth and Thirteenth Editions. There are 35 volumes in all, and, yes, their spines are faded to all different shades, but their leather and gilt bindings are otherwise in very good condition. It is not so easy to find a complete set, together with the supplemental volumes, of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition. If you’re not familiar with the Eleventh Edition, you can read another bookseller’s well-written description of why it’s signifcant here.
I found a few other good, solid books:
Mrs. Horace Mann’s Moral Culture of Infancy and Kindergarten Guide with Music for the Plays (1869) in near fine condition. A nice addition to my specialty of books written by or about American women.
Ivon Donnelly’s Chinese Junks, A Book of Drawings in Black and White, published in Shanghai in 1920 and with 28 tipped-in drawings (perhaps etchings — will have to examine this more closely). An unusual and pretty little illustrated book of the types of Chinese junks.
And, two odd books, which I bought for fun and challenge:
Shakespeare Cross-Examination (a goofy 1961 tome published by lawyers and arguing that Shakespeare really wasn’t Shakespeare).
The 1900 Annual Report of the Entomologist of the State Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota to the Governor (very cool illustrations of insects).
Let me make it clear that I am well aware that there are no million dollar finds here (at least they don’t appear to be at the moment), but I am happy all the same to have found interesting books in very good or better condition that I can sell.
I immediately went home and started to read an auction catalogue for an upcoming auction in which I want to participate. The book hunting never stops!
See you in the stacks!