Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Day #350

Geek alert: have concluded yet another adventure that only seems adventuresome to those of us who loved school. This time it wasn't the Hat Museum or the Emily Dickinson Sing-a-Long, but a personal tour of the Rare Book Room at Powells.

What makes a book rare? Well, there are the limited editions--fancy art books with poster-sized color reproductions--and then there the old books, which are the most fun.

Things like this hand-colored Godey's Lady's Book from the 19th century, which interested me in particular because it was edited by Sara Jospeha Hale, who is one of my personal obsessions. A widow who raised five children alone, Hale published over fifty volumes of work (including the best known nursery rhyme in the English language, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and still she found time to write over a thousand letters to Abraham Lincoln urging him to turn Thanksgiving into a federal holiday.

Friggin' overachiever. I’m sure Lincoln got so sick of her, he said, “Someone just shoot me.”

Or "Association copies," which are books owned by famous people who did not write them. Like this collection of Keats poems stolen from the Navy by Jack Kerouac, a one-of-a-kind find that costs $12,000:


Or this $14,000 copy of The House of Seven Gables, hand-bound by Virginia Woolf, who did it as a hobby to cheer herself up.

Yeah, that didn't work out too well.

3 comments:

Kate said...

I love old books - just don't get to carried away in your collecting. My family had an excentric friend who took to collecting books. When he died his three story victorian was jam packed full of more than 20,000 books. Sorting through them to determine which ones were worth 10 grand and which were worth 10 cents was an enormous chore. Of course he had no children so the sorting job was left to us.

Fran said...

Oh, someday I want to get to Powells again, and this time I really do want to walk in your footsteps and haunt the Rare Book Room. Except I'd be afraid to touch anything!

What great fun, though!

Mary said...

At first I scoffed at such a seemingly boring place, but your pictures of the Jack Kerouac and Virginia Woolf books were super interesting. I am currently working my way through both Woolf's and Kerouac's books. That is, between huge loads of reading for classes. . .