Over the past couple of years, I started collecting old books, not books with great potential for monetary appreciation or the need for insurance policies. Certainly not books to be kept behind the safety of glass, but books conveying the ideas of past generations on common subjects like knitting. My collection began with an out-of-print sequel to a more famous literary novel. The book was worn and tattered but satisfied the craving to know “what happened next.”
The ease in which this book was purchased made me curious to see what else I could find. School books dating to 1900 led to the fascinating discovery that young women of that “new” century did not necessarily like the idea of home economics and needed encouragement through a form of literary fiction; the ancestor of the self-help TV programming.
Recently an online sale of old books caught my eye and I wondered if I could find some gems to help with a paper I am working on for class. Justifying the purchase as an early Christmas present, I sifted and sorted (electronically of course) through the stacks of old books. When my purchases arrived I sorted them into the now and later stacks with the now joining me in my office for study.
One particularly delightful old book just begged for perusal and offered up a poignant quote, but the author had been hesitant to sign his name, making citation difficult. No author, no editor just a mysterious professional title. How very odd and rather mysterious (politically mysterious as it would turn out).
However it seems I was not the only one who had questioned this author’s identity. In 1955 the book first left the original owner’s hands and a note had been written in the front cover explaining the personal, though cryptic inscription. The author’s name was written by hand by the bookstore agent purchasing the book, along with a brief explanation of the book’s purchase. The book buyer also hand wrote the resale price of $.50, quite the sum I am sure.
Upon conducting a quick internet search, I verified the accuracy of the author’s name and thereby realized that my copy had been a gift from the author to some initialed friend. In addition to being the author of multiple books on diplomacy, the mysterious man who published his first book anonymously had been a U.S. ambassador in the years that followed the publication.
Old books certainly have stories to tell.
What a lovely story! As a passionate admirer of books — the “old fashioned” paper, bound variety — your tale highlights the divine grandeur of the printed word; the mystery, the majesty, the utter joy in teasing out clues of origin, dates of publication. I found this pondering particularly pithy — in all the best possible ways!
Thank you, it was a lovely pithy to have enter my mind and exit my fingers. Especially as it gave me a break on research and school work. 🙂