Weekly Geeks 2010-38: Antique Books

This week’s Weekly Geeks question asks us

to write a post sharing with us what old antique books you may have on your shelves, and tell us the story behind them. Did you inherit from a relative? Are you a collector of old and rare books? Did you just discover a certain book in a used book store and couldn’t pass it up? What’s the very oldest book you have? Do you even like old books? Or do they creep you out? Do you read and enjoy your old books, or is it more a “look and don’t touch” thing?

Reading for me is about the stories and the words and I don’t much care what container they come in. So I am not a collector of antique books (or any other kind for that matter). But I do have this set of 20 leather-bound classic novels. They are not antiques and have no publication date inside them but a little googling suggests they were published around 1950.

The books belonged to my paternal grandmother who I never met because she died before I was born but I do feel oddly connected to her due to these books. The set used to live on the top shelf of the hallway bookshelf in my parents’ house. Being an early booklover and having read every other book in the house (we didn’t have that many, most of my books came from the library) I used to beg my mother to be able to read these and for a long time she said I wasn’t old enough. It wasn’t that the content was too mature for me but I had a habit of taking books everywhere with me at an early age (bath, beach, tree house, shoved in back pocket while riding to the park to read…) and my mum thought these deserved better treatment. In the summer holidays before I went to high school I apparently displayed enough sense for my mum to feel confident I wouldn’t take these to the bath and I read them all at least once during that summer break. My favourites at the time were Wuthering Heights (hey I was a teenage girl, it is a rite of passage to fall in love with Heathcliff) and Tales of Mystery and Imagination (yep I started my crime fiction obsession early).

Although the books have a lot of sentimental value for me they are definitely for reading (I have even loaned them to people) (but only people I trust not to drop them in the bath). I don’t really get the ‘look don’t touch’ thing when it comes to books. For me a book that is never read loses its lustre in the same way that a pearl never worn next to the skin is said to do. For a book to be the best book it can be it needs to be taken down from its shelf every now and again. Right?

What about you, do you own any antique books? Are you a collector? Do you have books that are to be seen and not read?

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10 Responses to Weekly Geeks 2010-38: Antique Books

  1. Jade Carver says:

    I have a collection of old books, mostly acquired from op shops. Some of them are my absolute favourite books – The Princess and the Goblin, the Golden Stallion, World’s Greatest Detective Stories printed in 1935!

    This is making me want to go op shopping… alas, I am broke.


  2. JoV says:

    Such beautiful and special collection Bernadette! Especially it was previously owned by your maternal grandmother, it’s an heirloom!

    I wouldn’t lend this collection to anyone, for fear of losing them or people who doesn’t regard the book as precious as your mom would. But I don’t mind loaning my other paperbacks or hardbacks though. I really think this precious collection of yours should be “Untouchable”. 😉

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, because then I don’t feel attached to it) I don’t own an antique collection, but I have seen many such books on sale on charity bookstores, but my 6-volume EM forster collection purchased in 1995 may well be an antique in a few decades time.


  3. Oooooh Jade I am jealous of your World’s Greatest Detective Stories.


  4. @ JoV I love that idea that you’re starting tomorrow’s antique collection now.


  5. Bernadette – What a wonderful story!! Those books are lovely, too. What a great connection, too, between you and your grandmother. I’m sure that she would have been very pleased to know her books kept your “reading fire” lit :-).


  6. kathy durkin says:

    It is a lovely story, that you have your grandmother’s book collection. That is nice. I have some political books that belonged to my father and a few books of my mother’s, but one interesting book is one my Dad gave me years ago, which is a book of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle’s competitors.
    I don’t blame your mother for wanting the books treated respectfully. (I do get grumpy when friends put my loaned books or library books on their floors! Sacrilege in my book!)
    But it sounds good.
    By the way, I saw a post at Eurocrime that Denise Mina is publishing more Paddy Meehan books. I liked these, but then I looked at Mina’s name on your index and was reminded of her terrific Garnethill series. So now, on top of my TBR pile and TBR lists and TBPurchased lists, I am afraid I must add a reread of Garnethill. I agree with your 5 rating. I loved the trilogy altogether, all of it, the characters, the city, the life, the retaliation, etc. Think I’ll switch from Stockholm to Glasgow in a few days, although I have Nordics at home and am reading Barbara Fister’s (Scandinavian Crime Fiction blog) second book in her series about a Chicago woman detective–just up my alley.


  7. Dorte H says:

    Though I keep most of my crime novels (nearly all the ones I really liked), I am not a collector in the sense that my books are on display. Books have been made to be read, full stop.

    I do own one crime novel that is very special to me, however, because my father´s mother gave it to me. I loved her dearly so the fact that my first crime novel was one of hers that she let me keep makes it very special.


  8. BooksPlease says:

    I agree – books are for reading and not for show. I don’t have any ‘antique’ books, although I have some old books belonging to my parents and grandparents. They are most definitely well used and well loved books.

    Wuthering Heights was one of my favourites as a teenager too. My mother wouldn’t let me read Edgar Allan Poe when I first found a copy in our bookcase – I must have been about 8 or 9 at the time! So of course then I wanted to read it even more.


  9. kathy durkin says:

    I love keeping my favorite books around me in different rooms on shelves, amidst pottery and such. When I sit and work at the computer, I see my books around me with all kinds of artwork, and it gives me the most contented feeling. There aren’t any books that are “antiques” but there are many that have been given to me or which I inherited from my parents or belonged to meaningful people, or are lovely art books, that I cherish them. But none are off limits to being looked at or read.


  10. I have a collection of mysteries written by Fergus Hume, including early editions of Mystery of a Hansom Cab, plus a very rare original of Professor Brankel’s Secret, (1886) written by Hume in the same year as Hansom Cab and published in Melbourne as what would be called a ‘paperback’. Also have some first editions by Hal Porter (Watcher on a Cast Iron Balcony) and Robert Close (Love me Sailor), an early collection of works by Thackeray for Punch Magazine and two first editions of books by E.F.Benson. Others plus the oldest book; a small edition of History of Mary Queen of Scots, 1855.


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