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Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Different Kind of Day, Outdoors and in Bookstore

Our weather turned balmy. Sky is grey, ground underfoot wet and slushy, but I don’t care. Having a break from subzero wind chill is more than fine with me.

My last post was about the arrival of exciting new books. The next morning, Saturday as a couple friends and I were reminiscing over coffee about childhood Christmas trees, two men came through the door weighed down with box and bag. Santa Claus and a helper? Presents? No, old books from a house recently sold and being cleared out in a hurry. On top of the wobbly box was a ragged partial volume without any kind of cover and missing its first 20-some pages, and of all the dusty volumes brought in, that was the one that caught my eye. Here’s what the first page looked like:

I have no idea what preceded the beautiful lessons in cursive handwriting and calligraphy, but following came all manner of legal information and forms, and then, for me the most interesting, information on plants, insects, poultry, bees, and livestock, all richly illustrated in the wonderful manner of over a century ago.

In general, I love this kind of stuff, windows into the way people used to live. 

Sadly, however, none of the books hauled in on Saturday were in saleable condition. Boo-hoo! The one I love is incomplete and falling apart, and the others had such a strong musty order that I couldn’t bear to have them near me – or near my other books – for long. What can be done with them? I would not donate them to a thrift shop and pass the problem along to others. Hardcover books cannot be recycled unless the covers are first torn off. It’s a long way from Leelanau Township to the dump, and we’ve already made our one trip for 2014.

So here’s my plea to people who want to get rid of old books. If they’re dirty or falling apart or smelly, don’t think you’re doing anyone a favor by donating them, either to a charity thrift shop or a used bookstore. Today was my fault. I should have met the books at the door and sent them on their way. Every once in a while, though, when I’m otherwise engaged, a few slip through. But people, friends -- someone has to pay to have junk books hauled off as trash. This time I’m that someone. Next time I won’t be. Thanks!


Dawn said...

I've sat on the board of a couple nonprofits and this is always a problem, people 'donating' things that cost us more to dispose of then we might earn. You are right, you have to be strong enough to say no thank you. Glad you got to see the one though. Some of those old pages might be frameable (don't think that's a word!)

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I decided this morning that I'll go to the effort of tearing the covers off the smelly hardcover books so that the pages can be recycled, along with the smelly paperbacks. That will reduce what needs to go in the garbage, which I pay to have hauled away whenever I have enough to fill a bag. (Some weeks we don't have enough, and it waits until the next week.) So that problem is solved in my mind and by later today will be dealt with and eliminated.

I had the same thought you had about framing some of the beautifully illustrated pages in that big, falling-apart old book. One of the most beautiful pages I found only after I'd uploaded this post. Wait until you see that picture! It's a lot of words, kind of like a poster more than a picture, but it really has pizzazz.

alexiswittman said...

Ya, I love those illustrations. the historical museum might value them. An early how- to book?

P. J. Grath said...

I doubt anyone would want a book in this condition, Alexis. It was printed on cheap paper to begin with -- and the second half of the remaining pages (not illustrated) are blank record sheets "Cash Paid Out," "Sales Account," "Purchase Account," etc. This was a book meant to be used. I am, however, hanging onto it for a while and will post a couple more pictures soon.