Saturday, January 18, 2014

Old Books--The Addiction Begins

Hello. My name is Kim and I'm a recovering retail shopper. In other words, I'm a thrift-shop-aholic, and I'm absolutely okay with it.

I wasn't always this way. Second hand shopping is a recent addiction revealed to me by one of the best teachers around--necessity. Approximately two years ago, hubby and I decided to downsize and move into a smaller home. We chose the little house we wanted, and moved in. We did this BEFORE selling our other home (yes, it was a crazy thing to do).  As a result, we weathered 6 months of making two house payments. Precious little money was left over after paying all the bills. I wouldn't want to endure that again, but as is often the case, hardships can force us to see new things. During this time I discovered the thrill of thrift store shopping.

The addiction began when I had my first stellar day at a used book sale. Prior to this, I'd had nothing but terrible luck in second hand stores. They were the antithesis to the well organized displays I was accustomed to in retail establishments. I found thrift shops confusing, random, chaotic.  In my opinion, retail stores were the overture, and thrift stores were the cacophony. But, on that September day, my checking account verified that retail was not in the realm of possibility. I simply had to make sense of thrift store chaos, and failure was not an option.

I tested the "second hand" waters with a used book sale at the local library. It was $5 dollars per box. No matter how many books I could cram into a box, the cost was $5. How refreshing! I went from feeling as poor as the proverbial church mouse, to feeling like I had just won the lottery! Okay, maybe not the lottery, but it was really nice to feel like I could buy some things and stay in budget. To give you an idea, here is my take from that day.  Hmmm, suddenly, I wasn't missing the chain stores with their latte machines.  :)

My haul from that day. As you can see, I stuffed the box and stretched that $5. 

Below, you can see the oldest books I got at the sale.

The book at the top right, 'The Lady In Black" is from the late 1800s! The others are from the early 1900s! I was thrilled to find these.

But my favorite of the day…the book that officially awakened my love of collecting old books is this one. It's not the oldest one of the lot, however there is more to it than meets the eye.

Initially, the colors and artful illustration on the front cover stood out. In this photo it's difficult to get the full impact of the art, but I think it's clear that the cover has a distinct style and quality. The colors are vivid. The illustration very detailed. In short, this is a cut above the usual look of mass produced products today.

Here are some more examples of the beautiful illustration style of this book.

The artist's skill takes us into a moment. 

These illustrations are like looking at paintings!

Upon further examination, I discovered the most impacting aspect of this book:

"To Patsy From Daddy  Conference 1945"

If I had wavered before, seeing this sentiment generations later sold the book.  It sparked my imagination. This is  a child's book, so I would guess Patsy to have been  around 10-12 years of age. I can picture this Dad, searching for the perfect gift, then proudly presenting it to his daughter. This was an era untouched by smartphones, laptops, tablets, iPads, kindles and the like. In the absence of all this electronic "noise", I believe books were more revered in those days. Can you imagine her pleasure upon seeing her father's gift? Did she squeal with delight? Did she grin from ear to ear? Did she hug his neck? Perhaps she did all of these things. Perhaps bird watching was a hobby she and her Dad shared. This brief note of affection touched my heart. Surely this had been special to Patsy!  It was sad to see this token of love on a shelf, at a used book sale for a stranger to buy. How could this have ended up being donated to a sale? Was there no one at all who felt a connection to this book? I quickly realized the answer to my last question was a resounding NO! Being privy to this father/daughter moment, a full 67 years after the fact, tugged at my heartstrings. Therefore, I decided it would have a new home with me. By the way, when I got it  home, I discovered one more thing that made this book even more special. The author is Margeurite Henry! She was one of MY favorite childhood authors!  I loved her books! Patsy and I are generations apart, yet we share the same childhood author. Perhaps like me, she read 'Misty Of Chincoteague', and 'Stormy, Misty's Foal'.

Here is where I saw the author's name. And I love the sign the illustrator added over the door of the birdhouse.

Fast forward almost two years--'Birds At Home' still has a place on my bookshelf. I've amassed a lot more books since then. Each one interesting in its own way. But no matter how unique, no other book  I find can usurp this one. For this is the one that awakened my passion for collecting old books. It taught me that things with a history come with a wealth of mystery and surprise. It's my first treasure found among ordinary things. Whenever I look at it, I remember the experience of finding it, and I am reminded that Patsy and I can cherish the same book.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere! Love it. This post makes me want to get in the car, go to my nearest second hand store, and search for old books. Searching for, and collecting, old books used to be a passion of mine, and I share your enthusiasm for the personal inscriptions. It sparks my imagination...who were these people? How did they live? What happened to them? Hey, and do I spy a "Simply the Best" WW cookbook in your take? I have that one on my shelf, ordered it from Amazon Marketplace, also secondhand. Not nearly as much fun as 'finding' it though!

  2. What fun and beautiful treasures you were able to find. I've gone to the library book sale in the past and picked out a few books, hard not to. But you picked out some very interesting books and the personal note in the Birds at Home book was I'm sure an unexpected surprise. It does make you think about the father and daughter, how he found it, where was he when he bought it, what was she like, how long did she keep the book......I really like your blog and look forward to seeing more of your "finds".