My reading list is never confined to the seasons. Just the same, it is tremendous fun to select a few titles from the stacks of unread books and purpose to read them over the summer. Of course, I often read quite a few books that you’ll never seen a trace of on my list…sometimes one comes to my attention and slips ahead of the books that have been patiently waiting their turn in orderly lines across my dresser. 🙂
This list is about half of the books I intend to read this summer—the vintage half. The modern books, which tend to be non-fiction, don’t make it on this list. 🙂 I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a few Louis L’Amour, P.G. Wodehouse, or Mary Stewart titles creep onto this stack between now and the 21st… But without further ado, here is my vintage summer reading as far as currently planned:
- Drums by James Boyd. First published in 1925. This is one of those classic adventure tales that I never had a chance to read yet. Also ’tis one of the books that inspired David McCullough, one of my favorite biographers, to become a historian. My edition is from 1958 and is illustrated by the great N.C. Wyeth.
- Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie. First published in 1941. A good old-fashioned mystery that should be loads of fun.
- The Ridin’ Kid From Powder River by Henry Herbert Knibbs. First published in 1919.
- Bull-Dog Drummond Returns by H.C. McNeile. First published in 1931. Bulldog Drummond is one of my favorite characters in the film world (as played by John Howard), and the books by McNeile are rapidly moving thrillers of the old-fashioned type. I can’t say positively just how grand this one is–until I read it, but I have my suspicions. 🙂
- The Queen’s Bodyguard by Margaret Vandegrift. First published in 1883. This is an extremely RARE book to find an original copy of, and the oldest book in this stack! I was planning to put it in my shop last month, but in reading bits of pages it looked so interesting that I couldn’t stand to part with it before reading it myself. I hope it lives up to it’s promising appearance!
- Lin McLean by Owen Wister. First published in 1898. Lin McLean is one of the characters in the famous “The Virginian” novel that flew through the book shops, carried iconic lines that Americans still quote today, inspired a popular western TV show, and had 6 films based off it from 1914 to 2014. It’s the only book I know of that has been made into movies for over 100 years. Anyway, long before it’s popularity, Owen Wister wrote Lin McLean, another western with many of the same characters, including the Virginian himself. I’ve been intending to read this, and am looking forward to seeing the humble origins of the famous characters that have affected our culture since the 1800’s.
- The Wealth of Nation by Adam Smith. First published in 1776. Unfortunately, my copy is not that old! A classic work on economics that I have been eagerly trying to read for years. It’s going to happen this summer if at all possible!
What are you reading this summer? Any vintage books?
A Note From Annie
This past week I found this post about George Vanderbilt’s personal library in the Biltmore Mansion. Two points in it intrigued me:
First, the records he kept of ALL the books he’d read from age 12 to his death. And second, the fact that one third of the books he purchased were vintage–antiquarian–purchases.
I’ve been pondering written histories, legacies, and libraries a lot, and those two habits of his were not only a help and pleasure to himself, but a valuable contribution to his family.
The list would be of personal family value–for to know a man’s reading material is to know a man’s mind and interests. Some folks write biographies for their descendants, be it a multi volume set, a “Dr. Jones” type leather bound “grail diary,” or two handwritten pages. But wouldn’t it be a great strategy to leave a record of all the books you’ve read along with a biography (or in lieu of it for those who don’t keep personal histories)? And if that list has ratings or a few thoughts scribbled by each title, so much the better! I know I would pay a high price to have a list of books read by my parents, grandparents, and ancestors. Particularly some of them! 🙂 After all, who wouldn’t find it delightful to learn their Great-Grandmother’s favorite mystery novel when she was a young lady in the roaring 20’s?!
The popular website Goodreads does, in effect, fulfill a part of that for many of us in this generation. But it is not the same as a complete, tangible, and easily found REAL paper list you can place in someone’s hands and lock in the family secret chest…
I have kept a written record of the books I’ve read since I was 13. The first few pages are on “scrap” paper, but most of them are simply written out in pencil on notebook paper and filed away on the bottom shelf in my library. Seeing the photos of Mr. Vanderbilt’s “books I’ve read” journals has made me seriously consider investing in a nice handmade leather-bound book (there are a lot of fine ones on Etsy). It would last longer than papers tucked in a book and would be far more handsome, classy, and durable. Not to mention it would age into a fine vintage book itself within a few generations.;)
The second habit of making one third of his book purchases of vintage books, shows fine business sense and aesthetic taste. It is always wise to purchase things that appreciate in value. Any businessman knows that. A library of vintage books will likely double in value over 20 years. And those who leave their libraries to their descendants will realize, that in merely a few generations, a sizeable fortune can be amassed from the increase in value of books they paid mere dollars for.
And aesthetically, the price can’t be measured in dollars!
Here’s to building libraries intentionally!
Do you record the books you read? In a book? On paper? Goodreads? What percentage of your book purchases are vintage?
Spring always leaves me trying to catch my breath, but also with a pile of accomplishments that make the rush worth every minute of it. Putting in a large garden is among my favorite spring activities, but all the Box 13 bookish things are a delight as well. The past few weeks have found me:
- Hunting up several more “lost libraries” and acquiring two of them. One found me driving down back streets in a sleepy historic town. I found the deserted house, got permission of free reign from the owner, and dug through a personal library collected over a period of 90 years. A hunt through deserted property brings on all sorts of singular events from spiders, mildew, and must— to suspicious neighbors, gas meter men, and piles of the most curious antique “junk.” The other vintage book collection came by the less romantic, but slightly adventurous, way of the internet. Making deals on libraries several states away that I have never even had one glimpse at is a bold undertaking.
Reading half a dozen vintage books on my reading list: The Prisoner of Zenda, Salute to Adventurers, Love Among the Chickens, God and Country, The Zeppelin’s Passenger, and Lady Baltimore.
Three of them were excellent. One was terrible. And the other two…they are a long story. 🙂 I’d love to write up reviews on them if I find a few spare pockets of time.
- Listening to THIS PODCAST by David MacAlvany and being thrilled with the discussion of books and legacy. The bit about books starts at 3:38 and ends around 14:10 and it’s grand!
- Reading a book that a film was based off, and also watched a film based off a book. I always find it fascinating to see how filmmakers try to turn a book into a movie…
- Reading C. S. Lewis’ letters and being pleasantly surprised that we hold the same views on abridged books (“can’t bear them”) and the uniform”picked” series like “The Hundred Best Books” (terrible, stale, and guilty of “standardization of the brain”).
- As always, mailing out orders (and trying to beat my own shipping time!), answering questions, cleaning & sorting books, and trying to convince myself that I cannot keep all the nice books for my collection (which I generally succeed at, as evidenced in the fresh piles of books that have been added to Box 13 shop recently).
And now I’m off to work once again…
What vintage books have you been reading this spring? Let me know in the comments below!
Many things in life surprise us. Years ago when I decided to hunt out forgotten books and help folks build their libraries of fine old collectables, I would have been surprised at the skills it would force me to acquire. It seemed so simple: go on book hunting adventures, bring them to my desk, list them online, and mail them off to someone’s home. But that’s not how it really happened…not at all!
Many, many hours of study on making your books visible in the overwhelming load of information on the internet.
Learning an entirely new set of terms and specialized vocabulary that pertains to various wear and aging patterns of books that never occurs in the average conversations of one’s life.
Finding a decades-old mark on a book and spending days trying to figure out what caused it (because that is a great factor in determining value etc.). And doing the same thing for a different mark the next week. And the next.
Spending a day deep in research on a long-forgotten 1800’s publishing company, trying to sleuth out exactly when the book you have was published, being that they seemed to delight in omitting the copyright and publication dates. And that strange delight was quite catching—scores of publishers did the same thing a hundred years ago. 😉
And the list goes on…
One of the fun things that I unconsciously picked up in all my study of, and handling of books was a unique sense of smell. As lovers of books I’m sure you know what I mean. There is the exciting crisp scent of a brand new book–opened for the first time, and the lovely scent of history and the libraries of generations gone before in an old volume. The rich scent of a leather binding. The musty pages of a novel from 100 years ago…
For many years as I borrowed books from friends I could identify the house they came from simply from the hint of fragrance trapped in the pages. Then one day after operating the bookshop for awhile, I woke up to the realization that I could also identify the publisher and set of books (sometimes to the decade!) by the smell of the pages. Even after the book has traveled and after all those different houses it has absorbed scents from over the years. Now, it is not always possible. Some books I can’t identify at all by the smell alone. But there are a few that are so unique that it makes it as simple as watching the sun rise.
And there is a scientific explanation for it–it has to do with the chemical composition of the paper. In old books especially the quality of paper varied widely. The cheaper published antique books (still nice cloth-bound hardcovers) were published with cheaper paper, and were more affordable for your average American. Often the long-running children’s series had an economy version, and those particular series are the easiest to identify by smell.
If your interest is piqued, this video has some fascinating information for book lovers, collectors, and historians. It’s a quick summary of a rather detailed subject!
It is time consuming and hard work to date and sell books. Often it takes hours of research to find one clue about a book and it’s history. But I love it, and I heartily echo the grand 1914 poem by A. Morgan and say:
Thank God for the might of it,
The ardor–the urge, the delight of it–” *
It’s a complicated, yet immensely fun job. And I’m off to continue…
*The poem is titled “Work: A Song Of Triumph”
Thank God for the might of it,
The ardor–the urge, the delight of it–
Work that springs from the heart’s desire,
Setting the brain and the soul on fire–
Oh, what is so good as the heat of it,
And what is so glad as the beat of it,
And what is so kind as the stern command,
Challenging brain and heat and hand?
Thank God for the pace of it;
For the terrible, keen, swift race of it;
Fiery steeds in full control,
Nostrils a-quiver to greet the goal.
Work, the power that drives behind,
Guiding the purposes, taming the mind,
Holding the runaway wishes back,
Reining the will to one steady track,
Speeding the energies faster–faster,
Triumphing over disaster.
Oh, what is so good as the pain of it,
And what is so great as the gain of it?
And what is so kind as the cruel goad,
Forcing us on through the rugged road?
Thank God for the pride of it,
For the beautiful, conquering tide of it,
Sweeping the tide in its furious flood,
Thrilling the arteries, cleansing the blood,
Mastering stupor and dull despair,
Moving the dreamer to do and dare.
Oh–what is so good as the urge of it,
And what is so glad as the surge of it,
And what is so strong as the summons deep,
Rousing the torpid soul from the sleep?
Thank God for the swing of it,
For the clamoring, hammering ring of it,
Passion of labor daily hurled
On mighty anvils of the world.
Oh what is so fierce as the flame of it?
And what is so huge as the aim of it?
Thundering on through death and doubt,
Calling the plan of the Maker out.
Work, the Titan; Work, the friend,
Shaping the earth to a glorious end,
Draining the swamps and blasting the hills,
Doing whatever the spirit wills–
Rending a continent apart,
To answer the dream of the master heart.
Thank God for a world where none may shirk–
Thank God for the Splendor of Work.
Happy New Year!
Thank you to all of the the wonderful customers who have supported my book shop, Box Thirteen, during this past year. I appreciate your business very much and am grateful that you chose to shop in my corner–out of all the places in the vast online world! You folks make it possible for me to do what I love: hunt for old books and help you build your library.
I am looking forward to serving this year!
May we all build grand libraries and fill our homes with the handsomely bound volumes from generations past!
Here is a list of vintage books I’ve selected from the shop that would make great Christmas gifts for the youths in your life! Give them hours of entertainment and a piece of history which they can be proud of adding to their library!
They are sorted by decade so you can pick your favorite era of children’s stories! Simply click on the photo to go to that book in the shop!
Vintage Books From the 1950-60’s (approx. 60 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1940’s (approx. 70 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1930’s (approx. 80 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1920’s (approx. 90 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1910’s (approx 100 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1900’s (approx. 110 years old)
Vintage Books From The 1800’s (over 116 years old!)
And…there are more in the shop HERE!
P.S. I’ve already sent out many books on their merry way to be placed under Christmas trees across North America…and once I’ve sold out, they’re gone. So if you have your eye on any of the books, I’d encourage you to grab it while you have a chance!
- It appreciates in value. In 20 years it will be worth more than you paid for it. Need I say more?
- Every vintage book has a history, and is part of our history. Giving them to people who appreciate them helps preserve that history. You’d be surprised how many old books get thrown in dumpsters and tossed out with the trash. I’ve rescued many antiques, rare books, and quite valuable works that are an important part of our history. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. Forever. I could write a whole blog post of stories about this…
- Vintage books tend to be more ascetically pleasing, and double as quality decor. The sewn bindings, cloths and leathers, cover tones, illustrations, matching sets, and thousands of other little details make them pieces of art that tell a story. A story of the quality craftsmanship of the generations before.
So, I’m publishing a few Christmas gift guides for Box 13 shop over the next days:
- Youth/Children’s Vintage Book Gift Guide For The Shop
- Vintage Western Novels Gift Guide For The Shop
- Box 13 Christmas Gift Guide: Vintage Books (novels and/or non-fiction)
- Agent Box 13’s Personal Favorites; A List Of Vintage Books Gifts
Keep your eyes out for them this week!
P.S. I’ve already sent out many books on their merry way to be placed under Christmas trees across North America….and once I’ve sold out, they’re gone. So if you have your eye on any of the books, I’d encourage you to grab it while you have a chance!
I’m spilling over with gratitude for SO many things this year, however, this list is confined to a few of the vintage-book related things that have delighted me through this year of reading and working with old treasures.
I’m thankful for a sweet little Canadian woman who penned words and shared them with the public, so that over 100 years later I could read them and delight in the sheer loveliness of her stories, and become inspired by the way that she points out the breathtaking beauty in the ordinary world, relationships, and life.
I’m thankful that I live in an era of internet—an era where one can find almost any old book, and have it appear in your mailbox within a matter of days.
For the volumes that fire the imagination and stir the blood like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
For the tales of mystery, daring, and thrills, whose pages I flipped rapidly, and which kept my mind sharp and on it’s toes–The 39 Steps, Death On The Nile…and the list goes on and on.
For the wide open spaces, fresh air, courage during hard times, justice prevailing, pluck, quick-shooting cowboys, and tales of wrongs righted in the vintage western books of yesteryear. Books where the righteous are still hailed as heroes and their land is blessed, while the wicked and their plans come to naught in the blazing masterpiece of a sunset and dusty winds.
For friends who listen to me discuss the books I’m reading, and add their commentary which unearths important points and sharpens my mind.
I’m thankful for each and every one of you customers in my shop, who have allowed me the privilege of being your personal book-hunter, and have helped me be able to do the work I love. I’m so grateful that I have a job where leather bindings, antique pages, and unearthing long forgotten volumes is a part of the daily work. It’s a study of artifacts and cultural history that never grows old.
For the ecstasy of opening an unpublished manuscript that came in the mail, and the kindness of the author who allowed me to read the rough edit.
John Buchan, my new favorite author. And the dear friend who introduced me to his amazing books.
Mr. Standfast, a fine novel if there ever was one.
The dormant lines that I gleaned from vintage novels, and reintroduced to our culture—by quoting them. I often wonder if the author could have guessed which lines would stick out to the readers, and that they would be quoted by folks over 100 years from then.
And the list could go on.
I have plenty to be thankful for (and this list doesn’t even mention non-fiction!).
What books are thankful for this year? What are you grateful for in the literary world?
I’ve been enjoying learning more about photography this year. My skills are not very great yet, but I’ve been learning. Earlier this year my book photographer moved suddenly, and I found out my ignorance of cameras during the next week. I scrambled around as I attempted to learn everything at once.
At first I simply tried to replicate his photos, and make mine turn out like his did. Lately, I’ve been considering changing the actual style of product photos in the shop. I’ve found that I really enjoy taking other photos in different settings, environments, and light, and love playing with the different elements. I’ve been posting a few of them on my instagram account @boxthirteenbooks .
For example, when I photographed “The Six Gun Code” in my beginning days I was using my old method. A while later I photographed it and found that I enjoyed the other settings far better.
My question to you is: which photo do you think looks better?
And, which kind of photo (disregarding the vast quality difference!) do you like better for presentation of books in the shop?
The solid background that is uniform (as I’ve always done), or the outdoor shots?
Cast your votes in the comments!
Last week I shared a list of 6 vintage fiction books I’m planning to read this fall, this list is Part Two: half a dozen non-fiction vintage books for my fall reading list.
For those of you that are curious the oldest publishing date in this list is from 1912; 104 years ago.
Three of the books are history, one is historical poetry, one is a Christian devotional, and one is a classic economic work.
So from top to bottom the books are:
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- The Book of Comfort by J. R. Miller
- Brave Men by Ernie Pyle (I just finished this one!)
- The Banditti of The Plains by A. S. Mercer
- Battle At The Cowpens by Arthur Magill
- The Good Years; From 1900 to The First World War by Walter Lord
While all the books look like they will prove to be interesting, I am quite curious about The Good Years as I’ve read a book by Walter Lord before, and found his writing style to be very pleasant and alive. If this book proves to be so as well it’s going to be some fun history.