Yesterday, I was able to do something I very seldom have time to do anymore. I visited several thrift shops, flea markets, and antique stores in a neighboring town. On the rare occasions I am able to browse these havens of miscellany, it is unheard of for me to come home empty handed. I admit it. I have a minor hoarding illness. Mostly small items that remind me of my grandparents, or toys played with as a child, but sometimes it’s books. Dear lord, the books. One of the reasons I was drawn to my current house was the beautiful pine built-in shelves that span my dining area. It took me less than a year to fill, then overflow them with a never-ending stream of books. In the years since then, those shelves have declared Manifest Destiny and sent out brave colonizing sorties to other rooms, one by one. There is now at least one large-ish shelf in every room of my home, groaning under the weight of overpopulation. I have been ruthless, thinned them out, disposed of duplicates & refrained from keeping dual hardcover/softcover editions, but it has made only a minor dent. Yes, I am perfectly well aware of that modern marvel, the e-reader, and it is a wonderful invention if I happen to be killing time in a parking lot or waiting room. Sometimes after I snuggle up at night, I open up my virtual bookshelf on my phone and read a few pages before falling asleep. It just isn’t the same, though. Books have a feel of history and longevity to them that cannot be replicated digitally. The feel of pages under your fingers, or the faint but unmistakeable whiff of the paper and ink is part of the reading experience, at least for me. I collect first editions, whenever I can find them. None of mine are particularly valuable (except to me), but I love them dearly. The prizes of my shelf are a first printing of Selected Stories (London, Macmillan & Co, Ltd. 1934) of Rudyard Kipling, a first printing of Point-Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley (Doubleday, 1928), and a nice little first edition Hedda Gabler by Ibsen (London: William Heinemann, 1891. First English translation) I received for my birthday several years ago. Of the three, by far the one I find most fascinating is my Kipling, because there is an inscription on the flyleaf from a mother to her child, Christmas 1934. It is an amazing thing, to think of all the loving hands some books go through before they come home to live with you. It makes me feel, in a way, connected to those prior generations. And that is a really cool thing.
* I was strong! Only one slim little volume got adopted today, Mr. Citizen by Harry S. Truman (Independence Press, 1960). It is currently patiently awaiting its turn on my reading list and residing between My Sergei & The Collected Works Of Khalil Gibran. My shelves are nothing if not eclectic.