This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Library book sale treasures and no buyer's remorse!

The library book sale I went to today, in a neighboring town, was small with little selection, especially compared to the annual sale in my own town. But it was worth the lengthy and beautiful walk I had to make home. A lovely excursion on a Saturday morning: I knew I'd like poking around at old books, the older the better.

Well, there were precious few really old books. And I thought the library was overpricing its wares at $1 a paperback and $2 for a hardcover. It used to be that you could get a book for fifty cents and it felt like a steal (a great feeling) and you were more likely to load up on them. But, perhaps, I'm being a Scrooge. In any case, I purchased two books, one old, one ancient-looking. I was prepared to pay the $4 for the two of them, but right when I got to the counter, the gentleman who had been doing the transactions was relieved for a break by a woman. Lucky me. Because she felt the books I'd selected were so out of shape that she seems to have made an executive decision and let me have them for half off. Happy thing for me! I sometimes feel foolish after I buy used books, deciding I don't want them after all and giving them away. I hate that wasted money feeling.

I am quite sure, quite sure, that there is no monetary value to the books I purchased. Their value is entirely personal. One is is Louisa May Alcott from 1908 with some pretty frontispieces which I plan to make part of a LMA collection as Alcott things seem to turn up a lot of places; I already have two others.

Thrifty book buyer that I have become, I thought hard and relatively long about whether I wanted these two. I couldn't let the Alcott go; I anticipated relative disappointment then. But, I realized as I pretended to browse the other books on the tables while I deliberated, if I'd found that the other book had gone missing there would have been near-visceral disappointment. What is this mystery book?

I have to laugh and say it's really nothing special. IT terribly tattered, missing its back cover, looks like it fell in someone's bathtub a hundred years ago. It's like something pulled out of a traveler's trunk that's been rescued from a long-ago sunken sea-faring vehicle.

But that's why I love it. It's as old as it looks. The copyright is 1859 with no later years listed. The first page is blank save for the inscription its owner made, presumably many years ago. The book appears to have been a text entitled A Greek Reader by Anthon and Jacobs. Its owner was Chas. L. Babson who wrote his school name below his, East Corinth Academy. Below that a Latin inscription and its English translation - Labor Omnia Vincit - Labour (British spelling) Conquers All Things.

So, was he studious, this Charles L. Babson. Did he place the Latin quote in his Greek text to motivate himself? And where was East Corinth Academy? And could I find out anything more about him in the wired world of today?

In times like these, Google is a friend, indeed. So, I found out that East Corinth Academy was located in East Corinth, Maine. Also, a Chas. L. Babson (that same spelling) was a town selectman in Brooklin, Maine circa 1864. I fancy he was in high school when he used the book and five years later, finished with school, became an involved member of the community. Of course, this brings up more questions. Can I find out more about him? Did he harbor grand ambitions as a antebellum young man? Had he dreamed of having Lincoln's job before Lincoln himself had it?

The search will, when I'm bored and want to putter around the internet, continue. Would Chas. L. Babson ever have guessed that one hundred and fifty years after inscribing that book, his signature and text would be on display for anyone to see who happened upon a place called GBBS?

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