Tuesday, April 20

Antique Books

It's probably a good thing right now that I don't have a house. If I did, I'd be collecting antique books, and that would be an expensive hobby! Yesterday, Mom and I had a Girls Day Out. We went to a wonderful store in Cooperstown: Rick Worden's Antiques. Mom says walking around the lower level there is like being in her mother's basement - her aunt had those dishes, that china cabinet is just the same as her mother's, her sister had that toy... she's a bit depressed to find all those things labeled antiques now, but it opens great doors for me to learn things I didn't know about my relatives.

The upper level of said store is the part I had a hard time with. So many beautiful books! In the days before paperbacks, it seems every book was beautifully bound with leather or board and the insides lovingly lined with floral paper. Edification and instruction abounded, eloquent words looping and swirling along the pages, each one inviting the reader further along in his journey. Tucked in among the words are lithographs and richly tinted prints of idyllic scenes to tug on the reader's heart strings. Such treasures!

But dear God are they expensive!!

Here-in lies the mystery. Take two of the ones at the top of my list: Mrs. Beaton's and Happy Homes and the Hearts that Make Them. I can't show them to you because I can't find good links for them at the moment - don't look at the amazon ones because they're revised reprints (read: no longer anything like the orginals and therefore worthless). Now both of these books were huge sellers in their day. (Seriously, every married woman of middle class or above got a copy of Mrs. Beaton's and a Bible at her wedding, since it was commonly assumed there was nothing could possibly need to know to be a successful wife, mother and citizen that wasn't covered in one of the two.) Yet it is nearly impossible to find either of these books in their original or early printings anywhere. What copies there are tend to be madly expensive, which begs the question:

Where did they all go??

What did we, as a nation, do with hundreds of thousands of copies of these books? They're not being treasured heirlooms, because no one's ever heard of them. They're not clogging used bookstores anywhere, since I'm in those all the time and have yet to lay my hands on one. Were the collected and burned en masse by liberal feminists of the sixities and seventies? Were they buried with their owners, too precious to part with?

Whatever the answer, it makes me want to be a little more purposeful with the things in my life. I get into cleaning fits where I'm ready to toss everything out - maybe I need to think first about the next generation in my life will look for in another 20 or 30 years and ask "where did it all go?"

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