I always rummage through the “Make an Offer” boxes at the library book sale.
These boxes are full of books that are too ratty or too odd to sell in the Collector’s Corner (where the nice old books go). I feel sorry for these books. They’re beautiful. Fascinating. They deserve to go home instead of getting pitched in the rubbish heap– or bought by art students who are going to chop them up for collages.
This lovely little book still has its dust jacket. But what caught my attention it is that stamp on the jacket: “Nelson Libraries: Every post office receives books for free transmission to trench, camp, and hospital.” Inside, someone wrote: “Rw. T. Barnes. Christmas, 1918. Hilderstone (?) V.”
Hilderstone is a village in Staffordshire. No idea what “V” stands for. The book sold for 7d. (Sevenpence.) I have no idea how a book, given one Christmas nearly a century ago in a Staffordshire village, ended up in a bargain box in Florida.
This book I nearly passed over. Its title, Ça Ira, comes from a song from the French Revolution. As a pro-Royalist (yes, I have loyalties about that revolution), I took offense, and then I read the author’s introduction:
I dedicate this book to the WORKINGMEN, and to the memory of all who have ever suffered in their Cause, hoping that the energies of the living, and the inspiration of the dead, may unite to peacefully accomplish that Great Revolution to which all Humanitarians must look with the greatest concern, The Emancipation of Labor.
Great. Not only is the author a Sans-Culotte, he’s a bloody Marxist. But when I looked again at the front leaf, I realized I was holding an autographed copy:
“To Reese Crawford with the compliments of The Author. Waverly Hall, Nov. 20th 1876.”
Now that’s cool.
Also, Reese Crawford seems to have scribbled his arithmetic homework in here. Or maybe he was calculating the expense of starting another Great Revolution. On the pages after that, he wrote mysterious lists of authors, historical personages, and books:
“Les Misérables Victor Hugo, The Vicar of Wakefield, Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat, Tom Sawyer, Napoleon III, R E Lee.”
And the list goes on. No idea if this was his assigned reading or if these were books he thought might inspire the Emancipation of Labor.
I doubt I’ll ever read either of these books, but I’ve rescued them from the bargain boxes, and they’ll have a safe home on my bookshelves.