Do you prowl used book stores, library sales, flea markets or garage/yard sales wondering what odd or unusual book you may find? Maybe you work from a favored authors’ list to find the ones you’ve
missed in a recent, or old, series. A friend told you of a must-read and you are willing to pay the 50 cents, up from the dime or quarter of years past, to try something you aren’t sure of.
And as you mosey along, does some quaint title, odd or old fashion looking cover grab your attention? You pick it up, see it’s over a hundred years old and has lovely artwork or a long deceased but famous author’s name on it. You slide it into the middle of your stack and sidle up to the check-out, not sure if they’ll snatch your treasure back and tell you it’s NotForSale.
Or maybe you are a master of the quick perusal; you know exactly what to look for, its value and even have a client who wants that book, that edition and will take it in that condition. In other words, you are a professional Book Scavenger. You are lucky to have developed your craft while the rest of us are still
struggling, even inept amateurs.
But we are also lucky who wander about with little knowledge and just admire something because it charms us with its beauty, its age, its author. I’ve stumbled into such finds over the years and snatched up some treasures to place on my shelves.
I’ve also been dumb enough to sell treasures at my own yard sales and lived to regret it. Oh, for that early ‘60’s set of Shakespeare….the Mark Twain and Zane Grey collections, my childhood book of rhymes and stories I loved so much. Where are they now?
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913 Disappeared in Mexico)
at Bohemian Grove with George Sterling and Jack London
Recently I paused to take a look at something I bought in the last year at a library sale…and not in the rare book section, for I never go past that gate assuming I can’t afford them! It is a republished edition, in 1971, of Ambrose Bierce’s WRITE IT RIGHT: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults, originally published by Walter Neale in 1909. My edition from Grabhorn-Hoyem, with an introduction by Oscar Lewis, was the first
re-issue but several have followed.
I decided to run it by one of the best known rare book sites on the web: www.AbeBooks.com . I found it for sale at $200…wow! Who knew? And my book is in excellent (not “near fine”) condition with not a smear,
turned corner or crayon mark to be seen.
Not only that, the book, a 44-page style manual, is delightful in pressing for precision and correctness in language…tho’ some of his ideas are now quaint, obsolete or beside the point:
“authoress. A needless word—as needless as ‘poetess.’
brainy. Pure slang and singulary disagreeable.
chin whiskers. The whisker grows on the cheek, not the chin.
illy for ill. There is no such word as illy, for ill itself is an adverb.
pants for trousers. Abbreviated from pantaloons, which are no longer worn. Vulgar exceedingly.
seldom ever. A most unusual locution.
unkempt for disordered, untidy, etc. Unkempt means uncombed, and can properly be said of nothing but the hair.
vulgar for immodest, indecent. It is from vulgus, the common people, the mob, and means both common and unrefined, but has no relation to indecency.”
It’s time to return my treasure to the shelf and search out something else there to charm, amuse and perhaps even educate but not to sell.
What do you have on your shelves, on your shopping list?
What treasures are hiding there?