Did you know that in old books there are tiny little insects called pseudoscorpions? Seriously. They protect the books by helping to destroy more invasive insects (who says that this blog isn’t educational). I love that, really, even if it does gross my wife out because I own a lot of old books and that means that there are probably several hundred of these little guys in and around my bookshelves.
Talking of her, my wife hates when I go shopping for books because I always come back with too many (well, at least that she what she always says). I have to say, I rarely go to the standard chain book stores, preferring the smaller, independent or antique book stores. I go through phases, sometimes buying history books, or sci-fi or supernatural, depending on what interests me. I have a small library, something in the order of an insignificant thousand books, but I love them all. Seriously. My oldest book is from 1854, but I fully intend to continue to collect older ones. My most expensive book was $200, but I fully intend to…well, I’m sure you can guess. My favourite purchases are vintage and antiquarian books. I have a soft spot for old children’s books.
But do you know what I like the most about old books? It’s not the musty smell of old paper, nor the knowledge that I am holding a piece of history, it is actually the personal notes and dedications that you often find written on the first few pages. For example, I own a US first edition of “The Terror” by Arthur Machen from 1917, which has a Valentine’s Day dedication dated 1920 to a specific individual in a specific location in the US from an unnamed admirer. That speaks to me; who was that unknown admirer? Were they already a couple, just teasing each other? Were they strangers? Did they meet, fall in love, get married? Was it unrequited love? How did that book end up on the shelves of a bookseller? Who were these people? These puzzles speak to me and only in that one book are the clues to that one mystery. I may be the only person in the world who knows about it. That blows my mind and makes me feel very humble. This book, nearly one hundred years old, has not just given me a fantastic story, but has revealed a part of a very personal history.
And that’s why I love old books.