Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What $5 spent at a junk store can buy: a late 19th/early 20th century illustrated edition of The Vicar of Wakefield and Miscellaneous Works by Oliver Goldsmith in very good readable condition (intact spine, cover, gilt and embossing) that opens to this passage from one of his poems, The Traveller:

"And the weak soul, within itself unblest,
Leans for all pleasure on another's breast.
Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art,
Pants for the vulgar praise, which fools impart;
Here vanity assumes her pert grimace,
And trims her robes of frieze with copper lace;
Here beggar pride defrauds her daily cheer,
To boast one splendid banquet once a-year:
The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws,
Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause."

Damn, that man could write. Not to applaud myself, Oliver, but I also unearthed near-mint 1901 University Society/Booklovers editions of The Merchant of Venice and Timon of Athens ($6 each.) They're so pristine I don't think they were read much or at all. The Goldsmith once belonged to a Minnie J. Legon in 1925, as she so helpfully inked her name on the inside of the front cover (Min didn't blot her sig before she closed the book, so it transferred over to the facing page.)

Rummaging through junk shops for books is fun. Tucked in among all those Reader's Digest Condensed Books and 8-Track Tape Guides are some real treasures; books so old and lovely that you feel privileged simply to hold them. Most of the time I don't find anything, but every now and then like today, I score.

Oliver Goldsmith's The Traveller is one of my favorite poems for personal reasons, but these lines are really cool:

"Still to ourselves in every place consign'd,
Our own felicity we make or find;
With secret course, which no loud storms annoy,
Glides the smooth current of domestic joy."

Okay, I'll stop now.


  1. Weird?
    No. Treasures.
    Found a complete Shakespeare when I was twelve for one dollar, circa 1840, unbowlderized.

  2. Anonymous7:58 AM

    I like buying old magazines from junk shops to look at the ads and recipes. I think Jello was in its heydey in the seventies.

    At a flea market I found a new book treasure on how to plan medieval celebrations. It has recipes, games, songs, a calendar and directions to make different types of medieval garments. It's not old but it's been priceless in helping me add some details that I hadn't thought about to my WIP.

    Lynda H.

  3. My weirdest find: a skinny book of East Tennessee folklore. It's got lots of fun stuff, like folktales, superstitions ("If you walk under a grapevine backwards, you won't grow anymore"), creepy folk remedies (to cure a baby's hives, cut an X on the baby's back, mix the blood with breast milk, and feed it to the baby), riddles (Q: When is a car not a car? A: When it turns into a driveway), and "friendship verses" like the following:

    At your funeral the preacher will say,
    "Here lies the shell; the nut has passed away."

    Or this one:

    When you get married,
    And live in a shack,
    Chew tobacco and
    Spit thru a crack.

    This book fascinates me; I've had lots of fun with it.

  4. We have a wonderful old bookstore in a rabbit's warren of an old building downtown and it's one of my favorite places to wander around. From time to time I find a room I swear wasn't there the last time I visited. My biggest treasure so far was a stack of kid's books from the Bailey School Kids series. I don't think they'd ever been read and the munchkin was overjoyed.

  5. Oh, my! What a find. Congrats to you. It's been a few years since I've turned up goodies like that.


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