When I was a freshman at a little liberal arts university in Indiana, I worked in the campus library. There I was given the privilege of rehabilitating antique books housed in the library’s tiny archives. Pulling on white cotton gloves, I dabbed a lanolin-based concoction on the poor old spines, backs and faces of leather-bound books to prevent “red rot” (or deterioration of the leather into a red powder).
Looking back, I guess you could say I was a book masseuse. Mind you, I had no formal training. I have no idea what possessed the librarian to be so trusting. Perhaps no one else wanted to sit in the dim, musky, climate-controlled room swabbing long-forgotten volumes. Or maybe Miss Holcalm could see how much I respected and loved the books. Then again, I was a freshman. She could have told me to go dust the dictionaries page-by-page and I would have done it.
Knowing what you now know about me, you can understand why I was so thrilled when my husband brought home an entire box of antique books from his parent’s house. Dating back to the 1800s, these beauties with their embossed covers and intricate cover art and illustrations, are treasures. Here. Take a peek . . .
Loving children’s books as I do, I was delighted to carefully look through the charming illustrations and think about the little girl who once prized them.
Old books exert a strange fascination for me — their smell, their feel, their history; wondering who might have owned them, how they lived, what they felt. ~ Historical Novelist Lauren Willig
Oh how lovely! My library work-study job was processing new books; embossing page 39, adding the metal ‘detector’ strip to the binding, and pasting in bookplates. So fun to hold new books every single day!
As for antique books, do you know the terrific blog “Forgotten Bookmarks” ? A rare and used bookseller photographs the things left behind in the books he buys. Recipes, photos, advertisements, etc. It is fascinating! http://www.forgottenbookmarks.com/
Thank you for the tip about Forgotten Bookmarks! And thank you for visiting, Cathy!
I’ve got some of these gems too. Especially the ‘shoe box’ my father said I should take before he died. It is full of old documents of how land purchases were made of the families farms. The oldest one ‘with a handshake’. And the penmanship was beautiful – at least on my Mother’s ancestory side. Wish the world could embrace some of that trusting character today. Yes, old books are fascinating. Thanks for the post.
That’s wonderful, Virginia. I feel so honored to be the next person who gets to take care of these special books.