Friday, November 15, 2013

Old Books and another Book Sale

Well, my local symphony society had another fund raiser--a book sale. And I am a big fan of book sales, as you know. This was a small sale, but I picked up several bargains--some fiction, a history of the Netherlands, and the second volume of Phillippe Aries History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. My Regency find however was a Dent Everyman's Library compilation of Nelson's Letters, published in 1960. It's a compact little volume but has 470 pages of letters.

I was disappointed that there weren't many old books in this sale. I love old books--the older the better. I like their smell, their yellowed pages, and their worn, crumbling spines. When I'm researching Regency England, I look for books that are pre-war, preferably pre-World War I. They have an innocence and charm about them that reaches back towards the years of that other war, the Napoleonic one. And the pictures--photos or drawings--often show scenes that have since disappeared.

"The King's England: Sussex" is one such book. Part of a large series by Arthur Mee (41 volumes in all) subtitled "A New Domesday Book of 10,000 Towns and Villages" it is a gold mine of illustrations and stories, pre-1937. I would love to find more in this series.

Another Dent book "The Old Country: A Book of Love & Praise of England" was written in 1917, specifically for those longing for 'home-thoughts'. My edition is from 1922. The selections are undoubtedly sentimental, but nonetheless charming, and the illustrations, mostly by A. R. Quinton and Herbert Railton, are in some cases stunning. Chester Cathedral by Railton is below.
 "The London of George VI" by E. O. Hoppe, a Dent book from 1937, has dozens of photos of a city now much changed. An evocative picture of the dismantling of the 1817 Waterloo Bridge resonates with this Regency researcher.

A favourite book of mine from 1941 is English Country Houses by V. Sackville-West. It is a very personal reflection on the great houses of England, many of which have disappeared in the intervening seventy-two years. The last sentence of this brief 47 page monograph is prophetic:
The system was, and is, a curious mixture of the feudal and the communal, and survives in England to-day. One wonders for how long?

This quote speaks of Regency England also. Did any of our favourite fictional Regency characters wonder how long their world would continue unchanged?

For photographs of the English countryside, I have old books like About Britain No. 10: The Lakes to Tyneside (1951), National Trust Guide: Places of Natural Beauty by D. M. Matheson (1950), and the Country Life Picture Book of the West Country (1952). The photographs in these books echo the beautiful paintings and drawings of Regency artists, and draw us closer to a world now vanished.

I live in the 21st century; I am an electronically published author, and I use an e-reader. The electronic resource Google Books is one of my favourite research tools. But my house is filled with books, and it is the old books, particularly, to which I turn again and again.

'Til next time,


1 comment:

The Greenockian said...

There is indeed something very special about old books!