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Topic: Old, very old treasured books...

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Subject: Old, very old treasured books...
Date Posted: 3/28/2008 3:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 5,986
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I'm unpacking boxes and boxes of books, and wish dearly I had not paid to have all of these hidden gems and treasures shipped here.  I should have just bitten the bullet and listed them, and if they hadn't been taken, I just should have donated them like I did all of my wonderful VHS movies.

So, I've been busy listing my keepers, and many TBR's I will never get to...but not all.  Oh, no, not all.  And just now I came to "The Box."  The aroma hit me as soon as I undid the flaps, that acrid old smell of books treasured and kept for going on now, 90 years.  Penciled inside of Just David, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, A Girl of the Limberlost,  is my grandfather's signature: Cecile Langway, 1915.  Two years before my mother was born.  (Missing is Freckles, and I know I had it.)  Then, Penrod, with the inscription to my mother, To Jeannette from Pa, 1932, when she was 15.  And my absolute gems: Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, given to my mother by her Aunt Lily in 1931.  And what value those two books at the time--the price is printed inside.  $1.50 each. 

I rescued them as a teen when my mother was going to throw them out.  I read them over and over, even into adulthood.  They are starting to pull from the bindings, they smell and are very dark with age.  No one in my entire family would want them. 

Nor would they want my 1942 copy of War and Peace with its faded red cover, also pulling away from the binding and brown with age.  This even has a separate little pamphlet, a guide to the characters, and colored maps back and front.  My self-educated aunt's old reference books, her rhyming dictionary that guided her poetry.

Libby Custer's Tenting on the Plains is in the best shape, but again, no one would want it.   As for my treasured and very very well read, Forever Amber, that is in pieces, and served its purpose.  It was just something I picked up at a tag sale.  That will be the first to go.

I don't know if I really expect answers, or if I just needed to share something about these treasures I have that are falling apart.  Then again, maybe I do need to know: just what do you do with your dead ancestors falling apart heirlooms?


Date Posted: 3/28/2008 8:19 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,135
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Bonnie, I don't have books that belonged to ancestors, but I do have old books I've collected over the years.  I have them all on their own old-fashioned bookshelf, there are no newer books on it so it looks like it would have looked in the 1950s. (The books on it range from around 1900 to the 1950s.)  They are fragile so when I handle them I have to be careful, but I love to look through them--not just because of the interesting content but also the sense of history when I imagine the people who have owned and read them during their lifetimes.  I can't give them up!

On the other hand, I don't think you should keep anything just because you have a sense of obligation.  If you don't enjoy the old books it's okay to give them away.  I would offer them to someone else in your family though, just in case there are others who might like to have them.


L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 3/29/2008 3:33 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Oh Bonnie, I know the feeling.  I have the hankies my Dad's Mom (whom I never met - she died when Dad was 19) gave to my Mother for her High School graduation gift.  Still in the box, never used.  1940.  I also have my Mom's junior year High School Year Book - 1939.  On my Dad's football photo (he was a Sr.) he wrote, "Love, Don".  So many other things like that have been destroyed over the years.  For me, they mean so much.

Girl of the Limberlost - what a throw-back!!  I don't think I have read that since 5th grade. :)

I would keep them unless you absolutely have no place for them.  Even if they are in a box in the attic - you will still remember them fondly, and maybe get them down again in a few years. :*)

Date Posted: 3/29/2008 10:49 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2007
Posts: 3,272
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Bonnie, you made me tear up while reading your post.  My grandmother died in 2006 the day after my second son was born and I couldn't make it to the funeral and I just finally got to her apartment over Christmas and took her old stationery and found letters from my great aunt and my great grandmother to my grandmother and some of my grandmother's letters and it just about killed me reading them but I wlll have them for the rest of my life...


Date Posted: 3/29/2008 11:40 AM ET
Member Since: 1/4/2008
Posts: 389
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What treasures!  I love antique books and have a small shelf of them.  I'll keep them as long as I find them interesting.  I also love just the feeling of history about them.  I've culled out those that just looked "cool and old" and kept the ones that I might actually want to read someday.  I donate them to the library sale, which is where I got them in the first place.  (They make a lot of money on me!)


Date Posted: 3/29/2008 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 5,986
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What nice replies!  Thank you.  I think I posted that because I was actually sitting there going through all of those books, missing my mother, and the rest of my family.  (I've been pretty weepy since moving, but that, too, shall pass.)  I needed to talk about it, get some feedback, too.  And I knew I could come here for it.

Diane, I have that same type of set up, and it is beautiful.  One of those old sectional barrister bookcases that looks perfect from the front, but is warped to hallelujah in the back.  And it is filled with all of these old books.  I have to admit, one not used to it needs to hold their breath when nearby!  I am thinking of putting little tins of ground coffee on the shelves and closing the glass to see if that helps the aroma. 

I'm not really keeping anything out of obligation...I do know better. (HA!  I would die from the guilt!) But I really mean it when I say I don't think there is a single person left in the family who would want these.

Oh, Lyn, the linens!  The towels with the crocheted edges, and pin cushions, and pillow cases.  The embroidery!  All of that is in a bin, and that too, rescued from my mother once when she was in a cleaning binge, or depressed.  There are baby sweaters and shawls knit by my grandmother over 60 years ago.

Anyway, thanks again all for popping in here with your comments.  Greatly appreciated.  I am feeling better today, and am keeping the books until I die.  Let someone else worry about it then.


Date Posted: 3/29/2008 4:16 PM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2006
Posts: 28,535
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Keep them :)  I don't have many items.  I don't have any hand me down books like that.  I do have the ripped up baby book that was for my Dad when he was born.  It's yellowed without a cover.  But, it's filled with wonderful things like my Dad's drawing of his parents, gift lists, my Grandma's musings of baby names (she must have been expecting twins because she was writing them in pairs that rhymed).  I also have the WWI ration book my Grandpa used in the military.  I have my Mom's baby book and a penmanship certificate she earned in elementary school.  No one else would want these things, but I consider them treasures even they are falling apart.

Date Posted: 3/30/2008 4:09 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 1,241
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Bonnie, I would and do keep them also. I have an old bookshelf that came from my Grandmother's house that has all my "treasures" in it. In addition to a number of others, I have the Little Colonel series and a much read copy of Mrs. Mike.  Sometimes sentimentality has to overcome practicality.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 3/30/2008 5:10 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Bonnie, if you clean the inside of the bookcase with orange oil and dry it well before you put the books in, it will help the "old book" smell.

The smell of antiques will *always* remind me of my Grandmother. :)

When my Mom died, my greedy sister took all of the embroidered pillow cases before I even got there. I was NOT happy.  I am planning to embroider some of my own, if I can get my act together. :)

Date Posted: 3/30/2008 6:50 PM ET
Member Since: 10/30/2006
Posts: 8,426
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Last Edited on: 12/13/08 1:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/31/2008 9:21 PM ET
Member Since: 10/9/2006
Posts: 88
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My father-in-law's parents were Swedish and my husband treasures the books he has from his grandparents even though my husband can only read a few words of that language.  On how many other bookshelves does one find Quo Vadis in Swedish! 

Thanks for the tip, L.G., about the orange oil.