The Magic of Old Books

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The fiscal year is over, so I the goals and projects I’ve been working on have been reached and finished, respectively. I’ve been lagging on talking about our children’s illustrator project, on which Coworker J and I have been working, but now I have some time to share!

We have over 20,000 books archived in the children’s illustrator collection. So this picture, as blurry as it is…

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… is just one aisle of books. There are three, and the rest are in a locked enclosure.

Here’s what one shelf looks like:

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The books are illustrated books. Children’s books. Illustrated children’s books. Old books. New books. Really old books. Reallllllly old books. It’s an incredible variety.

Here’s an even closer look:

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Black Beauty. A book of fairy tales. Thin books, thick books, books in good condition, and books in not so great condition.

I’d schlep up a laptop to the archive on the third floor and open up a Googledocs spreadsheet. What we’re doing is noting the author, illustrator, year of publication, publication house, and the book’s link on Worldcat. The goal is to get a list of what we have, so that the list can then be alphabetized, and the books then organized in that way.

Some of our older books are certainly reflections of their times. Take the title of this one, for example:

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(Yes, the “Dark Continent” is Africa.)

And if you weren’t sure of that fact, Mr. A. O. Stafford makes it quite clear in the preface:

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Yikes.

The note in the inside cover of this one puts me in awe, lover of British history that I am:

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Just casually, “the book went through a Blitz.” You know, one of the major events in London during the Second World War. And now it’s ended up in my hands. (Why am I allowed to touch it?)

A small tidbit of history;

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“Charge for over detention two cents a day.”

Late fees will put you in the poorhouse, kids!

Many of our books are falling apart, to the point where they need ribbon to stay together.

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So we’re tying it up in a pretty bow to keep the cover on.

Of course, though, it’s not the children’s illustrator project for nothing. So we have some pretty, some beautiful illustrations, and then some that are just breathtaking. The photo below is worth noting:

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Incredible.

Yet every so often, I came upon a real treasure. Something I couldn’t even imagine that I’d ever have the chance to see. Remember how above I mentioned that some of our books were reallllly old? I opened one, and chanced upon this title page:

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The date of publication may be hard to see at the bottom, so allow me to enlighten you:

1795.

Wow.

But there are a few major problems with the photo.

To the untrained eye, the picture is fine. Yet look closer. I’m not wearing gloves. The book is sitting, unprotected, on my jeans. Go back up to the first picture: the book hasn’t been stored in a special room, with muted lighting and climate control. (Obviously, I’m no expert, either; I’ve never taken an archiving or preservation class, but even my brain tells me that a book from 1795 needs some protection.)

I loved this project. I loved that I never knew which book I’d find next, from what year, what country, what illustrator… but we’d only really managed to “catalog” about eight shelves of the total collection. I’m greedy for more.

In other news, here’s me in my pajamas, with the giraffe.

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Links:

The Top Link of Indignation: Why hasn’t anyone stopped these people? This is tantamount to murder of the English language! Or in more measured, calmer terms from Mama Bear, “There is a difference between making something accessible and changing it entirely. Clueless is still not Emma.”  Which, true. But still, this is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Congratulations to Raina Telgemeier for this dubious honor!

From Library Friend D:

“He’ll probably ask you to read him a story. Will you forever acquiesce?”

From Friend D:

“The point is not to rank inflammatory books like game highlights. It’s to remind readers that information hasn’t always been free.”

This map is incredible.

If it’s done right, a grown-up Nancy Drew show could be fun.

From Friend G:

Never heard of anything like this, but would love to hear more.

From Friend P:

The article

From Mama Bear:

…and the photos. So long, cards! I won’t miss you!

Please buy me all the things.

Halloween’s a-comin’…

Some of these could be great. Others could be not so… great.

YOU THINK? Sounds obvious, but it’s not.

I could paper my apartment walls with these.

From Sister A:

He didn’t; it’s gorgeous.

Goucher College prof. Juliette Wells – she of the Jane Austen knowledge – argues (successfully) that Our Jane has a Resting Bitch Face. Can’t argue with an expert.

As a Baltimorean, Poe means one thing to me; but he may mean something different to a Bostonian or Angeleno or anyone else.

And speaking of Baltimore, this makes my hometown look smart, which we are, but especially to outsiders. Come visit, hon.

In What’s Annabelle Reading: Nothing, at the moment. I’m too afraid to start a book I can’t finish before I head to England on Monday. But I did just finish Coming of Age at the End of Days, which I suppose was fine, but nothing to write home about. Predictable. I very much liked, as in couldn’t-put-down liked Irvine Welsh’s newest book, but HATED the ending.

Finally, I read my newest Lizzie Skurnick book, Taking Terri Mueller, which I enjoyed very much. Those books rarely let me down. (I’m not linking to it because all the WorldCat links reveal the twist, so go find it yourselves.)

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