Wednesday, September 5, 2007


There's nothing like having to pack up and move forty years' worth of book collecting to make a person become a just little ruthless in the matter of duplicates. I tried to weed them out as I was packing, but they still keep turning up.

I know that some of our duplicates were due to the vagaries of our shelving system. For example, my husband divided the history section into rough subject catagories, but didn't alpabetize by author or title. Consequently, duplicates, overlooked in the jumble, crept in without our knowledge. Or sometimes they would hide themselves by being filed in two different catagories -- one copy of Tom Aquinas in the religion section and another in philosophy.

As I unpack I've rigorously alphabetized by author and then title and have turned up a fair number of unsuspected duplicates. (Would you believe three copies of Religion and the Rise of Western Culture? How did that happen?) In general, I've decided to keep hardcover copies rather than paperbacks though allowing some exceptions based on sentiment. For example, even though I also own a hardcover copy, I could never discard my paperback edition of 84 Charingcross Road. It's got the romantic inscription from my husband who was a bookseller before we married.

I had to steel myself to relinquish my battered childhood copy of Tom Sawyer in favor of the very nice hardcover collection of Twain's Mississippi writings. And I do feel some regret. The older copy was one of my very early book purchases. I'd bought it at the local Woolworths which, for a time, had a big stack of used books which they were selling off cheaply. I used to walk there (it was about a mile from my home) and root through the pile looking for books I had already read. My allowance was only 25 cents a week, so I seldom took chances on a book I hadn't read yet. I see that the copy of Daddy-Long-Legs which I bought there was priced at 50 cents. So that gives you an idea of my limited purchasing power.

Lately I've been unpacking the paperback fantasy, science fiction, and literature.

Hmmm. Two copies of Voyage to Arcturas. I still haven't read that! And we bought it way back in the '70s because we'd read that C.S. Lewis had been impressed by it. And look how many volumes we have from the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series! I'm embarassed by how many I haven't read. And judging by their pristine condition, some of them were never read by either my husband or myself. (Blush!) But it seemed so important to buy them back when, thanks to the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, old works of fantasy were finally being reprinted and new ones were being published. We always thought we'd get around to reading them sooner or later. I still intend to, but I never imagined it would be during my retirement.

I'm trying to be ruthless about culling the dupes, but I find that there are limits. Can I really part with my Ballantine copies of Lord of the Rings -- even though I have the Allen & Unwin one volume edition (slipcased and printed on India paper) and the Folio Society's edition (with illustrations by Ingahild Grathmer)? I know that Tolkien never liked the covers of the Ballentine edition (especially the little emu critters), but nothing brings backthe '60s, the era when I first read LOTR, like those battered paperbacks which lined up side by side to form a continuous landscape. In cases like these a book is more than a work of literature -- it's also an artifact of personal history. Besides, my Ballentine LOTR has little paper bookmarks scattered throughout the pages with penciled drawings of elves, hobbits, and Vulcans which I doodled while working at Telecredit in the mid '70s. And they just wouldn't fit in my newer, nicer editions.


rhinemouse said...

You are making me wish I had my whole library with me, sigh.

Don't throw out too many of the Ballantine adult fantasy! Those were a formative part of my childhood--or the back covers were, anyway.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I'm not throwing any of them out as such. I am reluctantly culling a few duplicates though.