The Madness of Bibliophilia

I’m a madwoman. I mean, you all knew that, right? You’re reading this, no doubt thinking ‘what’s she done this time?’

Well, back in April I moved myself, the Little Man (who’s not so little any longer) and his Floof into a somewhat less than a thousand foot apartment. We have two beds, two baths, two walk-in closets, a microscopic kitchen, and a decent living area. I took one look at it (I’d rented it sight unseen, although we had at least seen a different apartment in the same complex) and realized most of my books were staying in storage for the time being.

So, you’ve probably gotten an inkling of just what I did last night. All I can say in my defense is that I’m homeschooling a history geek. Also, I’m prepping. All the anxiety over the state of the world has gotten to me at last.

Presses back of hand to forehead, closes eyes and tips head back.

Look, some people stockpile food against TEOTWAWKI, and some lay in ammo. I’m putting useful books on my bookshelves, ok?

The Entire Encyclopedia Britannica, cat for scale

I mean, my poor First Reader has already resigned himself to knowing that books are my hoard. And I learned a few years ago (coffadecadecoff) that once you have the heart of a librarian there’s no changing your destiny. Besides which, I have regretted lo, these many years having gotten rid of the 1885 Encyclopaedia Britannica even if it was missing two volumes. I’ll never find it’s like again.

Which is why I hopped on a set from 1959. That, and the fun thing about buying from folks in the local online marketplace is that you get their stories along with the item, many times. At least, I do. I’ve met some lovely people doing this, and in this case, it made my day, a sweet old lady’s, and my son’s. She told me as she was loading them into my arms to be taken to my car that her father bought them, not long after he was in Pharmacy school, at least that was what she’d always thought, until I asked her what the copyright date was, and she realized they must have been a later purchase, as he was in school in the 1940s. From the good bindings, I’d say they were likely an investment once his career was going and his family started. I messaged her later to tell her my son was excited about them, and she was very happy I’d let her know that.

It’s funny, what all we add to a book. It’s not just the story, or the content, it’s the story about the story. In this case? History is being sanitized all out of recognition. So I’m giving my son a window into the not-too-distant past. I also have history text books that date back to the nineteenth century (although most of my antiques are in storage.) which will give him yet another perspective. Yes, things change. But sometimes, things are changed, and that’s what books like these help illuminate.

Also, if the zombie apoc comes, and civilization collapses, I shall be valued for my stash of rare and delicate purveyors of fine information. Or something like that.

(Header image: Inspector Gidget atop a tall tippy tower of books. The inset photo is her deciding she’d had enough of our nonsense)

24 comments

  1. A fellow bookwyrm! And yes, I do have the tee-shirt, and I wear it to Day Job, much to Sr. Scholastica’s . . . amusement? The two encyclopedia sets I sort of want are an older Britannica, and the Time Life Folklore, Magic, and Monsters [not the actual name of the set]. I have the full Durant, which is a great fast reference once you work around the built-in bias.

    1. I didn’t know there was a tee-shirt! I was going to design one for myself since I hadn’t seen one (I did Bookwyrm art years ago, but it’s not quite the right graphic for printing on shirts).
      I’m at the point in my life where I regret so many lost books. I know I shouldn’t, but it makes me happy to replace some of them.

    2. I got soooooo lucky with the latter! I loved them when I was in school, and literally stumbled into the pile at a library sale a decade later.

      The Enchanted World, BTW. Copyright 1985, at least for the Night Creatures one. (Includes the really nasty Kitsune story from China.)

        1. Whoo! We have that set (or, reality wise, $SPOUSE$ has that set, so no use trying to bribe me).

          All I ever had for encyclopedias, alas, was a Funk & Wagnalls set, from the late 60s or early 70s (can’t check it, they’re long gone, two entire moves ago). Back when grocery store “points” were stamps, and it would have been ridiculous to discount 35 cent a gallon gasoline.

    3. The Time Life series is The Enchanted World. I have a full set I got from a used bookstore 15 years ago, back when I was a performing storyteller.

      1. Weird. None of those replies showed up until after I posted mine. As for the $300 set on Amazon, I recommend checking eBay. I don’t think the set is worth nearly that much money.

        1. *laughs*
          For what it’s worth, I am utterly delighted to see how many other folks here instantly recognized the series!

    1. Just be very careful about returning books you’ve gotten from a Dragon’s “Lending Library”. 😀

      1. I feel sad reading posts like this — got rid of all my books after going blind. I can barely use a computer with a huge monitor, but Taichi (my black and white kitty) comforts me till all is well.

  2. What’s the curious ancient one on frontal display, with a picture on the cover? (Something something in Africa.) Haven’t seen a book in that style in a very long time.

    1. CAn’t read the top part yet, but the bottom image, if you zoom in, shows that the bottom reads ‘war in China. War in the Phillipines. war in South Africa.’ More or less.

  3. I only have seven books in this room. Six for work, one for fun, though it would be interesting to try to get people to guess which one was fun.

    I’m counting the closet separate, and I’ve put most of the little I have on hand there, so I won’t be as distracted.

    I’m also ignoring the issue of ebooks. This machine isn’t the one I have most of my ebooks on. I have at least three on here I can think of, but I’m sure I may have others squirreled away somewhere.

  4. A friend recently, due to lack of heirs, gave me her Brittanica. 1989, with all the great books and add-ons. It has evicted a number of other books from a case, and has more still to go: there’s a pile on my dining room table. (Justice Sotomayor’s autobiography? Perhaps the public library would like that: I don’t think anyone here cares to reread.)

  5. We don’t have an encyclopedia set, but that’s simply because we haven’t been book shopping for physical books for a while. But two political science PhDs collect a lot of books…

  6. My father had a 1911 (?) Brittanica which was very useful and surprising for settling questions about what people knew back then… as in did they have submarines … yes. As a scientist he liked to study the history of ideas about, let’s say the moon, and go far enough back in time to see where people had all coalesced around an idea. It was easier to see why when he looked back, and then to ask whether this had been a good thing. He also wrote the article on tektites in the Brittanica edition that Holly has.

    1. It sounds like the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam. If you can find a copy, it is worth more than its weight in gold, because that’s the last unexpurgated, source-critical edition. It is heavy with sources and doesn’t tap-dance around certain very “sensitive” topics like later editions.

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