Sunday, February 21, 2010

Antiques and Asthma

I have been Spring cleaning, during the last few days.  The Winter Olympics are on TV; since I can rarely sit still for longer than a half hour, I have been going through the books in our library.  This still allows me to hear if Canada has a competitor in an event, at which point I will drop everything in order to watch.

I found an old set of leather bound, small books named The Best of the World's Classics.  They were printed in 1909,  with Henry Cabot Lodge as Editor-In-Chief and Francis W. Halsey as Associate Editor.  There are ten volumes in all, although I only have five of them.

I have one Greece volume, two of Continental Europe and two of America. The leather is old and soft; cracked in places and the books open easily to favoured pages...

And then I found two old books on by W.P. Wright which was published in 1911 in Great Britain at the Temple Press. On the inside of the leather cover I find a quotation..."Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide in thy most need to go by thy side". I love that.

And the other tome on gardening is The Blue Book of Gardening---Catalogue 1939.  It was printed by Carters Tested Seeds Ltd. It is hardcover, with the 1939 calendar on the inside of the front cover, places for Diary notes, sepia coloured photos of Raynes Park in London, the home of Carters Tested Seeds, gracing the first few pages. A catalogue for seeds in hard cover, with beautiful plates of flowers and gardens scattered throughout!  These days I am grateful to receive a small pamphlet from a seed company in the mail.

And then, I have a very old, very beloved copy of The Works of William Shakespeare, printed by Morrison and Gibb of Edinburgh, Scotland and underneath the title, it states... Carefully Edited From The Best Texts. There is no date on this book, which I inherited along with a magnifying glass because of the very small print, but it is carefully taped here and there to keep the cover together. The cover is burgundy leather over a felt cloth which blanket the books gilt-lined pages, as thin and fine as tissue paper.

I find one of my favourite books of all time...The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. Printed in 1944, it has a foreword by the author, as if it had been written today.  She states..."If these years of war have been any use to mankind, surely their most lasting good has been to prove to all the world the splendid and heroic qualities of the plain Chinese people." With a cloth bound green cover, it was published by Random House with permission from the John Day Company.

As I look through these books, the most uncommon urge to sneeze...and sneeze...and sneeze, as if there were no tomorrow, comes over me. Old books and I have a habit of not getting along, even if they are my old books. A second-hand store is truly body reacts as if it were at war, with great, heaving asthmatic attacks. It is vexing in that I love old books and antiques...

I have aired them out many times since they came into my is time for another. I have not ever, even with a thorough cleansing, been able to read the above-mentioned list...they are too old and the smell of must is prevalent no matter what.

Writers were wordy in those days; even a discussion of the many Petunias take up quite a few sentences of lovely, descriptive words. I would love to read them, even just for those different this is from today's tweeting, where everyone shares views quickly, easily, with no formal appellations.

One may well wonder why I bother to keep them. There is little monetary value; it is for sentimental reasons that they still grace the old, long table upon which they reside. I imagine the love  with which my old aunt, who once owned them, turned those pages, taking up the magnifying glass with aged, trembling hands in order to read the fine, fine print.

She must have found comfort in reading those beautiful, familiar words and sentences. I remember she was able to quote long stanzas from any number of books...stanzas to fit any occasion.

I don't imagine quotes are used much when tweeting...

And so I keep these old books, even if they give me allergic attacks. They remind me of a time when books were kept for a lifetime, and read over and over.

A time when there were no televisions or hand-held devices to tell me Canada has just won a medal.... 


  1. I've read thousands of books through the years, but my one failure is The Good Earth. I have kept the book around for over 20 years and still have not been able to finish it. It took several years to get beyond the childbirth pages and I haven't gotten much further.

  2. Marion! I used to have the same complete set by the Lodge editor. Alas, when I moved from San Diego, CA years ago, I inadvertently left a box behind and some of the books were in there with a partial collection of another set too. I left S.D. with half the set of each and never got the box back. To this day, that is something I remember with regret. Not sad; just regret.

  3. My parents gave me lots of old books they had inherited from their families including two sets of encyclopedias from the turn of the century. When we moved all of our stuff north from California I got rid of almost everything. When I took them to the Goodwill store they just put them in a paper recycling bin. I guess I should have thought of a better place for them to go, but it was too late by then. At least I found a collectible dolls store that would take my dolls that had been saved all those many years. Maybe they were able to find a collector wanting a classic. Oh, now doesn't that make me feel old! - Margy

  4. ah, marion, i too sneeze unmercifully when i open an old book, and i too love them anyway.

    now you've inspired me to pull a few out and look at the dates they were published. i have the complete works of shakespeare too: i wonder how old it is.

    when jb and i moved here 4 years ago, i let go of many books, the first time i had ever done that. so now every book i have is one that i wish to have, wish to read and reread.

    i love that feeling.

    ♥ my good friend. i hope all is well on your end. xoxo

  5. What a fabulous tribute to books! "The Good Earth" is a favorite of my entire family. I know we've all read it dozens of time. Pearl S. Buck was such a magnificent writer. (You mut read her book, "Pavilion of Women" if you haven't. It's my 2nd favorite book of hers after "The Good Earth). I collect old books, too. They're like comforting old friends. I'm happiest when I'm surrounded by piles of books to read or thumb through. Thanks for this great post, Marion! Blessings!

  6. I use old books like these for decorations in my office. It makes it look as though I read more books than I do but more important it gives a rich and mature look. When I first went into my business I went out and bought old books to make me look older at the same time I bought glasses even though I did not need them. Now I need the glasses but I still do not read as many books as my office would seem to show. Now I do admit to people that most of my books are for show.

    All that came from reading about your found books.

    Kindest regards,
    Tom Bailey

  7. Jan,

    The Good Earth was required reading in an English class in high school. I forget which grade. I loved it, and reread it every few years. But, you know, some books, no matter the hype from teachers and others, just do not gel with me, and I just give up reading it after about 50 pages.I'd guess The Good Earth falls into that category with you!


    I wondered when I wrote this post if someone would pop up and say they had these books! I almost lost these books when my second marriage broke up; my ex just didn't like books all that much and they were left with me. I'm really glad, I would have sincerely regretted losing these.


    I wish you hadn't told me that, lol! I'm shuddering to think those old books you had ended up in the recycling bin. But that's what happened when I moved as well...lots of old collectibles ended up at the garbage dump. When you're moving it just seems like the easiest thing to is only later that I regretted it, and wished I could undo it.

    But I know someone found and loved your dolls...those are so highly collectible. Had you kept them from childhood? If you did, that would have been a wrench; I'm not sure I could have done that!

    Anybody who rides quads, lives on a float cabin, flies the skies, etc, etc, etc, sure doesn't sound old to me, lol!

  8. kj,

    If you find out how old that Shakespeare book is, perhaps you could let me know. I thought it was odd there was no date mentioned anywhere; but I could not look for long since it has that felt under the leather. I think the felt has a lot of mold spores in it, because I can't leaf through it without a huge sneezing attack, lol!

    I wish I was as strong as you were when you moved...I couldn't let go of many books I owned. Both Graham and I have very strong attachments to our books; hence it is difficult to weed them out.

    Everything is just great on this side of the continent, and I hope it is the same on your east side!


    I think I have read the Pavilion of Women, although I don't own it. I want to read both books again...they are inspirational to me, so they are on the list I have for books to buy.

    I have that pile of books by my bedside. Once they are read, I replace that pile...there always has to be something to read! And blessings right back at you!


    Your absolutely right about the atmosphere those old books give a room. You gave me a chuckle about the glasses...since I've worn them most of my life, I guess I must have looked mature at a young age. I wonder what they do for me they make me look even more 'mature'? Help.

    Thanks for the great comment, are so good at posting evocative comments! You have that enquiring mind...

  9. I have an old edition of, The Good Earth, too and I get asthma from old book mold. -Have to be very careful there. I thought the Canadian figure skaters were fabulous. Take care.

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  11. i love the smell of old books! and new. i've never heard of "the good earth" before, will look it up. just finished "sky burial" by xinran, loved it. reading "angels and demons" by dan brown. somehow, i can't stay focus on reading for long now, i have to stop every few pages, go round doing other stuff and come back to continue again. i think it'll take me a while to finish that one.
    as always, a good post marion. makes me appreciate books more than ever. they are our companions in cold winter days or hot sunny days :)

  12. My grandmother-in-law used to write in the margins of her books which we inherited. What a joy to see her reactions to the passages long after her passage.

    My oldest book is an 1868 edition of "Natural Philosophy" by Le Roy C. Cooley, A.M. -- whatever is "A.M." I have no idea. ("Elementary Principles of the Science" it says on the inner cover page). Basically the science and physics of the time for teaching in High Schools and Academies.
    It is the one with the torn edge upper-left in my post of the W.E. Catalog.
    I love to see others' bookcases -- entry into the soul . . .

  13. Princess,

    I loved the Ice Dance and Singles in Figure Skating...brought tears to my eyes when Joannie Rochette danced for her mother, who'd died just days ago. I can't begin to imagine how she managed to do that amazing dance!


    Thank you for the award. But each time I go to see it, I get taken to another page. I'll try again today.


    You're books smell good too. I'm glad you aren't bothered by the smell of the old books. Unless I'm in bed, I get up every few minutes when I'm reading during the day...seems focus on reading has gone out the window.I wonder what that's all about?

    I haven't read Sky Burial and will look it up.


    See, that's what I mean! There's very few scribbles in my books, only one or two, but I treasure them as well.

    I looked up Le Roy C. Cooley, AM. He led an interesting life! I discovered AM could be either Latin for Artium Magister which means Masters Degree or it could mean Member of the Order of Australia. In Le Roy's case, I would say it was a Masters Degree, since he did all this scientific research. I'm going to have to look up that post...I remember it.

    "Entry into the soul"...I loved your last sentence. And it's true, there is nothing like looking through bookcases...right off, one knows what the interests are of the owners.

  14. I suspect that "AM" refers to a masters degree, although nowadays one could not write a textbook without a doctorate, most likely.
    Thanks for the research, I must now check the fellow out to see his life history.
    Such fun . . .

  15. One of the nicer parts of Spring cleaning is dusting of books.

    I love old books and when younger had a huge collection. Sadly when downsizing my home I had to give most of my books away as I only have room for around 200 now. At least they went to bookworms amongst my friends :)

    Sadly the Winter Olympics is only shown here after 11pm at night. I find it them very exciting so have had very little sleep this week LOL.

  16. I have somme old books which I bought years ago meaning to read, but thye have been kept after moving, because they look interesting on the shelf, which is not the right reason really. However they are on my to do list and I have promised my self that I will read them.

  17. Goatman,

    It IS fun, isn't it, to research these old books! Glad I could help...


    Every time I move I lose more books. Eventually I suppose I will own just the ones which are very dear to me. That's good, too, in its own way.

    So glad you get to see some of the Olympics. They have galvanized people, for sure, the crowds are enormous. Sometimes I get too wound up and anxious over my team or competitor and have to turn off the TV for awhile!


    Maybe not all books are meant to be read, at this time. And I keep lots of books, just because they are old and beautiful and because someone loved them. And because a person wrote them...if it was a book I had written, I shudder to think of it ending up in the dump. I think that's why I keep so many, lol! Next time I move, I will take them to the book least then someone else may read and love them.

  18. Books have a place of reverence in our home as well. My husband is a writer and I sometimes pretend to be one. Mostly, as you know I feel I'm an artist first.
    As a fellow Canadian, I'm torn on who to root for in tomorrow's hockey game! I called my Uncle in Ottawa yesterday and I told him I thought Canada would win it all. They're ahead in gold medals after all ;)
    To me, I want a game as good as the first one we played with them last week. Wow. I was glued to the action!
    I won't tune into curling, no disrespect to my Uncle who loves it. I think it would be like watching paint dry.

    Ms. KJ is on her way to see me and take me to lunch. I still can't believe we met on the blogs when I lived in CA. She nearly fell off her seat when I said we were coming back east to stay. My only regret is I never made it up to Vancouver. So close yet so far!

    I hope you're enjoying the weekend Marion. If I were going through those books with you I'd be asking you to pass me the kleenex!

    Bless you!! May that cover your sneezes all day :)

  19. Here's the latest medal count by order of gold, silver, bronze, and then the total of each:

    1. United States 8 13 13 34
    2. Germany 9 11 7 27
    3. Canada 10 7 4 21

    Maybe baking soda sprinkled within the covers would help your books?

    I've recently gotten to where I avoid some books because the print is a bit too small anymore.

  20. Oops, I didn't hit "subscribe," so I had to come back and do that.

  21. Lolo,

    You'll understand why I don't like to let my books go, when your husband is a writer. I know you are very artistic, but I believe you're a writer as well! I do wish, though, that I had just a bit of your artistic talent.

    Oh! Haven't the Olympics been amazing! You'll have to root for Canada if you still have a smidgen of Canadian blood in you! I'm not sure I can even watch it...even curling yesterday made me get up and DO something...anything...just to calm down. haha!

    I was a curler once...I say once because that was about all it was. It is one of those cerebral sports...far too difficult for me, lol!

    How amazing that you moved so close to kj! I'm sure she was completely boggled by that...I would have been. I hope the two of you had a wonderful luncheon and that you hashed out all the world's problems and came out on top!


    Can you believe yesterday's medal count! It was quite honestly one of those days where I just could not contain myself! My poor dogs went running every which way...they had no idea what I was whooping and hollering about.

    One more day...and then the paralympics begin, which will also be quite emotional and exciting. The Olympics have certainly helped with the Winter blahs.

    I will try the baking's not one I've even thought of so thank you so much!

    The print is tiny in these books...I honestly don't know how people read them, even with great eyesight. I read somewhere that paper was very expensive and so the print became very small. Don't know if that's true.

    Thank you for subscribing, I really appreciate it!

  22. You might also check with an antique book store about what they do for musty smelling books. If they give you any good ideas, please feel free to pass them on to us.

  23. Anonymous11:43 a.m.

    Hello Marion,

    Your love for old books reminds me of being a child visiting our public library that felt like a temple, filled with intriguing smells and the aura of magic and reverence. Somehow I don't think there will be the same sentiments for a library of digital and electronic books. :D

  24. Ah, I know what you mean here, I collect old books, I have around 2-300 now, in all many of condition. It's like holding time in your hands, and it's true that soon there will be few of them left from that time at all. I read them all as I go along, and some of them are quite fascinating. They're really beautiful things aren't they.Love the pictures you've posted.

  25. i too love olde books and co-incidentally (again! Lol!) ~The Good Earth~ is one of my favorites too... i remember it being one of my high school text books (i probably would never have come across it otherwise) But what i particularly remember is loosing myself completely in that story, i remember feeling as if i were actually 'in' that story... i even remember how surprised i was that the story was so powerful for me that i could even 'smell' the landscape etc x