In some circles, old books have been relegated to the scrap pile – good for nothing more than stylish decor for bookshelves (seriously, this is a thing…) or for crafting material. While I would certainly agree that there are some books that are worth little more than tinder, regardless of age or condition, I believe that older books can and do hold immense value.
Older books are often fine examples of the craftsmanship that was commonplace long ago. It just wasn’t as common to find quality literature in cheaper paperback form, like is the case today.
Older books also have HISTORY. I just love the idea of a book having been read, studied, and loved so many years ago. I know I have so many books in my personal library that are, to me, treasures, and I imagine someone long ago cherishing these older books in just the same way.
To truly make a book yours, to have a conversation with the author, often requires jotting down notes, writing commentary, underlining, referencing other works.
Part of the pleasure in discovering older books while booking (yeah, that’s a word now) is finding a previous owner’s notes. I am still kicking myself for not grabbing a pocket edition Shakespeare play (A Midsummer’s Night Dream if I recall) that was filled with ancient pencil notes throughout.
I love my copy of The Poetry of Robert Frost (left) – it’s paperback and has a 1979 publication date. But I recently found an somewhat older hardback, with a most recent copyright of 1964. This was a well-loved copy, with extensive notes throughout.
A minor detail, but one that adds that “something” in a hardback.
The introduction, entitled The Figure a Poem Makes, and signed R.F. The previous owner’s notation drew me immediately to the paragraph on the left. “It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” sigh.
The previous owner went through and notated all poems that were included in another student addition.
One poem that isn’t included in this collection is pointed out.
The previous owner, at several points, make notations like this, connecting words to reinforce the relationship between them.
I have had a harder time deciphering some of the other commentary found throughout. The script is a little too sloppy.
Notations in Two Witches: The Witch of Coos. An interesting reference to the 1946 two-act opera The Medium, written by Gian Carlo Menatti.
Here in A Star in a Stone Boat, heavy notations. Connections made between words, and several illegible comments. I wish I could make out what the owner had to say about this poem!
Even the year of publication for each collection was added in by the owner.
I have so enjoyed going through this copy of Robert Frost and seeing how well-loved it was. And I am even further motivated to keep my own marginalia neat enough for future readers!