Old books

I know I usually give you a book review on Saturdays, but I haven’t finished reading one book since Wrinkle in Time.  I started three….  but I have nearly finished editing The Talent Seekers, so forgive me, please.

When I read my friend Jon Curran’s story Yukon Gold, I went looking for my copy of White Fang.  I have read Call of the Wild, which is what inspired Jon, but I don’t have a copy.

My White Fang is a small, red, cloth-covered hardback book. It doesn’t have a date on it.  I was tempted to start re-reading it there and then, since it would fit into the Children’s Classic Book Challenge.  I checked on Goodreads and found it was first published in 1906, and Goodreads didn’t have an edition listed that resembled my book.  So I started hunting on the net to find out more.

White FangI finally tracked down an edition listed by a Canadian book store, an antiquarian bookshop.  It didn’t show the cover, but it listed it in among others of the same imprint – Nelson’s New Century Library – and they had the same cover! I read the date indicated for the edition quite a few times.  1917.

I have a book printed in 1917! That’s 96 years old.  It’s in reasonably good condition for its age – better than others I have that are hand-me-downs. I wonder how I got it?  I can’t remember really, although I would guess that it used to belong to my grandfather.  There are no notes, initials or anything, other than the pencilled C.17 inside which I know is how I catalogued my books when I was about 10-12!  C was for Classic, I think.  I found another labelled C, which I also think is a classic, and one labelled with another letter, when I started looking through my old books, the hardbacks at any rate.

Oh, yes, that started me looking at ALL my old books – but mainly the hardbacks.  I knew all the paperbacks dated from after the ‘classic’ date, although some of them are reprints of earlier publications.  As far as I could see, White Fang may be the oldest.  The Water Babies is from 1948, but beautifully illustrated.  There is a delightful book also with beautiful illustrations called Child of the Air (or maybe Child of Air) which was awarded to my aunt Marjorie by her school in the 1920s – a prize for needlework! – which was also first published in 1917.  My aunt Patty’s name is on a slim volume of Hans Christian Anderson Stories called The Wild Swans, again undated, illustrated by Mabel Lucie Atwell, and there is a lovely charming picture book called Cherrywinkle – it’s the story of a moth, and I remember I loved it! It has either a full page picture opposite each page of story, or a half picture/half story on two pages.   I suppose it’s a picture book although there’s a lot of story on each page. That’s not in such good condition as the others – the spine is cloth, but only just!

Then there are two editions of Wind in the Willows, a set of the four Winnie the Pooh books, and later, but still classic – the Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, illustrated by Peter Scott.  And in the same library as White Fang, but much later, judging from the binding style, is Rupert of Henzau by Anthony Hope – the sequel to Prisoner of Zenda – now there’s an adventure!

What it confirms to me is that there was a box of books I have always thought I would not have thrown away, that somewhere or other got lost or thrown out.  Such a shame, as it includes two of my cousin Jo Hatcher’s books for middle grade kids – The Gasworks Alley Gang Goes West and A Chicken for Christmas.  I loved both of th0se – especially the latter.  And they probably fit in the classic list now, too, since she published them as a teenager and she’s in her 80s!

I’m glad I’ve kept these books.  I expect I’ll review some of them in time.  I think they’ll wait for me a little longer!

So what skeletons have you got hiding in your cupboards?  Or are they literary treasures?

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7 thoughts on “Old books

  1. I too had a library of books when I as little, but when my parents moved out of our old house, I was living in California, and had no chance to save them. How nice that you have these wonderful books!

    • I love the way books can descend through a family. It makes me feel part of something good.

  2. I never had so many, and most of what I had were cheap Scholastic paperback reprints. But I do have a copy of “Little Men” (sequel to “Little Women”) that my grandmother got on her birthday, in 1910. And I have all of L.M. Montgomery’s books, again, in cheap paperback reprints.

    I did spend some money a few years ago to hunt up what might have been my favorite book as a grade schooler–Betty MacDonald’s “Nancy and Plum.” She wrote the “Mrs. Pigglewiggle” books which I think are awful but a still in print. This one was a sweet (if predictable and somewhat insipid) story of a pair of orphans, and in my opinion, then and now, a much better book than the others, which are thinly disguised sermons.

      • Or maybe of not having good public libraries? I know my Mom owned few books of her own but read everything her dad brought from the library (mostly boys’ books, as they had a foster home for boys).

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