Treasures on the Shelf

Do you prowl used book stores, library sales, flea markets or garage/yard sales wondering what odd or unusual book you may find? Maybe you work from a favored authors’ list to find the ones you’ve
missed in a recent, or old, series. A friend told you of a must-read and you are willing to pay the 50 cents, up from the dime or quarter of years past, to try something you aren’t sure of.

And as you mosey along, does some quaint title, odd or old fashion looking cover grab your attention?  You pick it up, see it’s over a hundred years old and has lovely artwork or a long deceased but famous author’s name on it. You slide it into the middle of your stack and sidle up to the check-out, not sure if they’ll snatch your treasure back and tell you it’s NotForSale.

Or maybe you are a master of the quick perusal; you know exactly what to look for, its value and even have a client who wants that book, that edition and will take it in that condition. In other words, you are a professional Book Scavenger. You are lucky to have developed your craft while the rest of us are still
struggling, even inept amateurs.

But we are also lucky who wander about with little knowledge and just admire something because it charms us with its beauty, its age, its author. I’ve stumbled into such finds over the years and snatched up some treasures to place on my shelves.

I’ve also been dumb enough to sell treasures at my own yard sales and lived to regret it.  Oh, for that early ‘60’s set of Shakespeare….the Mark Twain and Zane Grey collections, my childhood book of rhymes and stories I loved so much. Where are they now?

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913 Disappeared in Mexico)

at Bohemian Grove with George Sterling and Jack London

Recently I paused to take a look at something I bought in the last year at a library sale…and not in the rare book section, for I never go past that gate assuming I can’t afford them!  It is a republished edition, in 1971, of Ambrose Bierce’s WRITE IT RIGHT: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults, originally published by Walter Neale in 1909. My edition from Grabhorn-Hoyem, with an introduction by Oscar Lewis, was the first
re-issue but several have followed.

I decided to run it by one of the best known rare book sites on the web: . I found it for sale at $200…wow! Who knew? And my book is in excellent (not “near fine”) condition with not a smear,
turned corner or crayon mark to be seen.

Not only that, the book, a 44-page style manual, is delightful in pressing for precision and correctness in language…tho’ some of his ideas are now quaint, obsolete or beside the point:

“authoress. A needless word—as needless as ‘poetess.’

brainy.      Pure slang and singulary disagreeable.

chin whiskers. The whisker grows on the cheek, not the chin.

illy for ill.  There is no such word as illy, for ill itself is an adverb.

pants for trousers.  Abbreviated from pantaloons, which are no longer worn. Vulgar exceedingly.

seldom ever.  A most unusual locution.

unkempt for disordered, untidy, etc.  Unkempt means uncombed, and can properly be said of nothing but the hair.

vulgar for immodest, indecent.  It is from vulgus, the common people, the mob, and means both common and unrefined, but has no relation to indecency.”

It’s time to return my treasure to the shelf and search out something else there to charm, amuse and perhaps even educate but not to sell.

               What do you have on your shelves, on your shopping list?

                              What treasures are hiding there?


Filed under Research, Writing

7 responses to “Treasures on the Shelf

  1. Amusing post, Arletta. Thanks for sharing! Loved the “authoress” and “seldom ever” descriptions.

    I have two treasured books on my shelves. The first is perhaps my favorite book of short stories and cartoons, The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. This was one of my favorite textbooks from a college English class. My paperback-perfect bound copy was originally copywrited by Thurber in 1931. My dogeared, less that perfect copy shows how much I enjoyed this book. (And I’ve been reading it again over the last few weeks!) This particular edition says it was in its eighth printing, with the notation that the first Delta publishing edition was March of 1964. It was originally published by Dell (assuming in 1931,) and says “reprinted by arrangement of Harper & Row, NY.

    My second treasure book is The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolph Flesch. This is a hardbound edition with the copywrite date of1946 by Rudolph Flesch, Harper and Brothers Publishing. I don’t recall when I obtained this book. It may have been handed down to me by my late father.

    Somewhere through the years I lost my “Complete Works of Wm. Shakespeare.” It was probably a 1960’s or 1970’s printing of the master’s works, and originally one of my college textbooks. Where are you, Will?

  2. Oh, Robin, I had several of Thurber’s books and had the same enjoyment as you describe. I had to sell off many of my 400 books years ago when we made yet another move and they must have gone then.
    A writer friend, Ginger W, writes for children and has a library of books her father and, I think, her grandfather wrote. Her husband built a high display shelf in her office and lined the room with versions of her books!
    I have a leather bound 1911 version of an 1864 edition of Shakespeare’s complete works that I haven’t researched…I love the tissue thin paper and the notation that it belonged to someone in Newark, NJ–where I was born. Don’t remember how I got it but think it was another library sale years ago.
    Thanks for sharing your treasures!

  3. Arletta,
    Wonderful post. I am amused and enlightened.
    I had wonderful book collections, from original Nancy Drew to Harry Potter. Long gone now.
    My Shakespeare collection from college was passed on to a needy soul.
    Other great reads i have passed on too.

    Brava my dear!!!

  4. Wonderful post, Arletta. Very well done and what an adventure. I was at that Library Sale earlier too. Another one coming up in October.

    Now, don’t get mad at me, but I take the “pretty” covers and make notebooks out of them. Yes, you might gasp. But some of the 30’s and 40’s old primers and novellas can have new life as a journal. And they are better used there than given to the landfill.

    Great job!

  5. Hi Shane and Sharon,
    I’m glad my post tickled your fancies. My sister-in-law in Arkansas wrote off the list with a batch of books she has on hand…one I found might be worth as much as $900. I taught her to do the research herself, I hope. If she comes up with more like that, I’ll wait for my cut when/if she sells.(ha!)
    Shane, I don’t think your new academic books will age well, but who knows.
    And, Sharon, I have a book my daughter sent me as a birthday present. It is a 1930’s obscure novel with the heart cut out, pages glued together and decorated; the earrings were in the cut-out! So, your new journals may march on…just do the research first in case you have a rare one. (read: valuable.)

  6. Interesting post, Arletta. You gave me cause to do a bookshellf inventory. Most of my favorite books have thier own shelf. Among them, a favorite childeren’s book, “Make Way for Ducklings,” was given to me by a neighbor when my oldest son was little. That sweet neighbor passed away about 15 years ago. She had said it was her favorite as a child. Out with the old to make way for the new doesn’t apply to books, does it?

  7. Some treasures are truly priceless as in this case. The history of “Make Way for Ducklings” for your friend and family is the true stuff of treasure. And you can continue to pass it down thru the ages. What could be sweeter!

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