Collecting Old Books

Free Week and it caught me by surprise!

I often have inspirations on a list for these times, but I seem to have used them up without replenishing them. I have another list of ideas which I have in mind for future topics, those which I would truly like to hear what is summoned up in the minds of my fellow bloggers and our readers, (when they grace our pages with their comments).

Being so caught, I have taken back one from the ‘topics not used’ list which we always add to our quarterly Topics roster, one of my own which has been rejected for one reason or another.

Often, there are just too many topics to squeeze all of them in, and after they have been passed around and added to at every quarter, some ideas just seem to get lost in the shuffle. We take turns at listing topics, scheduling ‘Free’ weeks, plus another, which is taken for review, guest or promotion.

I do, at times, miss the one cue I took from our ‘Founding Fox’, back when we each took the quarterly scheduling on our own: Theme months; two-three weeks on a theme or related topics.

The one reason I miss that is now, looking at the recent schedule, I see that I had proposed an idea for a story to tell, and also a corresponding idea. However, only one has been scheduled, and the second will be lost. Recently, we are all contributors to every quarter. I see where those of us who may not have strong ideas can be helped, and all of us need not wait a year to get our ideas and topics considered.

So the question which I stole back and ask today is:

What is the oldest book that you own?

This can be answered in more than one way.

The one which is the oldest to me, would be the very few older books which I have had since childhood or my teens. One is “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You”. I recently posted a photo and description when we discussed the toys which we have kept:

One that fits into this, and also the next category, is a copy of the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I bought it at a rummage sale when I was about 19. I cannot find a copyright or printing year, but it has an “Antoinette” plus her next two names inside the cover, printed in a fine hand, with the year “1924”. ABE books has a hardback which seems to be the same edition, one which they surmise to be from 1909. Its fine leather spine cover was torn off; I acquired it for only ten cents.

On the other hand, my original idea was for the age of the books themselves. It is unfortunate that many of the old books which have crossed my path were left behind in ill-handled moves of my family’s, including a very interesting, if often inaccurate, set of general encyclopedia from the mid 1800s.

[NOTE: We are not ‘Serious Collectors’, and have never spent more than a few dollars, (and often, much less than a dollar) on used books. All of those listed here are salvaged, or from thrift shops and rummage/yard sales.]

Right now we have on our shelves Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” from 1904, an “Ivanhoe” published in 1916,  a “Flight of the Tartar Tribe” by Thomas De Quincey and  a Pope’s “Iliad”, both dated 1889, plus  Tolstoy’s “Kreutzer Sonata”, from  1896.wp_20190122_007

When I tried to find and buy many of the old children’s books which had been dear to my heart, they were unavailable. I started looking whenever I hit a used shop or book sale. I have not found many of those I have lost, but I have picked up a number of children’s’ collections, among which is a copy of “The Blue Fairy Book”. Again, I cannot find a year on it, but it is very old. According to Wikipedia, copies were published with the same binding as mine between 1989-1913.

I have a “Young Folks Treasury, Volume XI : Golden Hours with the Poets”, from 1909. I did not see any other volumes when I bought this.
(Like many books of its day, there are tissue pages over the pictures;I folded it back for the photo.)


When Son #1 was in high school and needed to do a collection of poetry about a particular topic, he chose trains, which interested him very much. Our local library had not yet expanded and did not have much in the way of poetry, nor did his school. Thank Heaven, the Internet was up and running. He got an A+ and commendation on his originality. (I kept his report.) This led me to collect many poetry books, as I saw that those libraries which had had them on their shelves were selling them off.

We find a number of great books at charity thrift shops. Grandma or Grandpa downsizes, goes to a nursing home or dies, and their books are given away. It seems that there are very few book-lovers, or those with a sense of history, out there anymore.

I had collected a number of poetry books starting in my teens, but never picked them up as indiscriminately as I did for the 15-ish years after I realized the scarcity of them when looking for trains poems, (I’ve become more selective again, but then, most older poetry books that were going to be sold off at libraries already have been).

Which brings me to what I had believed was the one who marked for today’s topic: “Volume Three of the Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott”. Alas, again, I have only this volume and it is missing its back cover. It is dedicated by the author to his knightly benefactor, but without a year inscribed. I had to do research. Unfortunately, my volume is a ‘newer’ printing, done in the year 1900, and not an earlier one, done during Scott’s lifetime.

I found that our slim volume of “Old Greek Stories” is from 1895.

wp_20190122_004 1

I also have a “Complete Poetical Works of Francis Thompson” dated 1893, (although it is very plain).
The Husband is a historian raised in a military family, so we have a number of military and history books, including a two-volume set of “The Works of Tacitus “ [Roman General] , which date back to 1888, and I thought this just might be the winner of this unofficial contest among our books, but no.

My husband is also an ex-seminarian who collects religious books, many of which are quite old. We have a Catholic encyclopedia from 1913, as well as a number of others on varying subjects, including a small book of saints from 1911, (in the group picture above), and a few larger volumes, which I could not get to to be able to check their dates.

I did not go through every one of our books, not even all of the shelves, (nor some that are stacked). Of the dates which I could check on our oldest books, many of the religious type of books, a few novels and poetry books, were dated 1890-1920s, with the 1900s-1910s being predominant.

But as far as I have seen, I dub the book below (unofficially) as The Oldest Book in Our Library:
“Christ in His Church” dated 1882. Isn’t it something?(I’d make the pictures smaller, but the embossing and engravings won’t show up.)



What is YOUR oldest book?


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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7 Responses to Collecting Old Books

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    What a lovely collection! The oldest books I own are a few music texts that I found at my first teaching job. I kept them as a resource, since I never knew when someone was going to need a song about something in particular. I can’t check on the dates right now, but they’re probably as old as I am.


  2. Jeff Salter says:

    Well, since most of y’all know that I spent 30 years in the library profession… you’ll be aware that I love books. All books. Old books, new books, hardcover, paperback, tall books, short books. You get the point. And I especially love old books.
    At the library I last worked, we had — in what we loosely called our “rare book room” — at least one item which we referred to as “incunabula.” I no longer remember if it precisely fit that definition (printed before 1501), but it was definitely centuries old. We had several from the 1700s and many from the early and middle 1800s.
    But, for my own collection:
    Can’t now recall which titles, but my wife owns a partial set of books from the late 1800s which had belonged to her grandmother.
    I have a few isolated titles from the period of late 1800s to early 1900s. The big issue with many of those, of course, is the acid in the paper.
    I also have quite a few from that period of “war production” books in which — to conserve printing costs — several mainstream publishers released books with really CHEAP paper… practically newsprint quality paper. Those hold up even less than the books on acidic stock.
    Some of my favorite books are the NEW series of Easton books — bound in rich leather and printed on acid-free paper with gilt edging. So they’re not “old” books… but they’re books bound in the old way (though on paper which will survive the ages).


    • Paper is the key. Some of the books on our shelves surprised me at their age because of their good condition, and I was surprised as well at the ‘youth’ of some of the others, considering the progression of their decay.
      Many older books were made of great paper, paper made with cloth in the mix, (which is why there were ‘rag pickers’; many years ago; they sold it to paper mills). These pages are durable and less acidic. Also, like the book of children’s poetry above, the publishers placed acid-free paper between the illustrations; we have several like that and my mother had a few.
      I am sure that is the only reason why the ones above remain intact: good paper.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My oldest book is a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Copyright 1925. Found that gem in a used bookstore on the east coast. That’s my favorite one. I have several old books and even a framed page from a 1st edition King James 1611 AV Bible given to me by a Bible historian and lecturer who keeps even the broken copies he finds. Books are very special to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • WOW, that KJV page is a real treasure, Sharon! We are actual hoarders, who have parted with some books, but we literally have thousands more.
      Thanks for sharing about your books. We are kindred spirits!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      yeah, a lot of the really ancient books have been — long ago — broken down into pages. The illustrated pages sold for small fortunes and even the pages with ordinary printing purchased for souvenirs or gifts. In my library grad school hallways we had numerous framed pages from one of Audubon’s original printings. Terrible shame to destroy the original book… but at least the full page pix were able to be viewed by thousands of students over the years.


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