A love letter to old books

There are few things I love more than books.

The things I do love more than books are often old, like typewriters, record players, pipes, and top hats.

But when you combine the two and get some old books in my hands, oh man, it’s hard to contain myself.

Books—old or new—transport you back in time. You’re forced to enter someone else’s life and get an inside glimpse at what someone thought and did. That’s remarkable.

But there’s something even more special about old books because when you read them, you’re not just transported back in time to when the subject lived or what the author wrote, but also to the periods of time when someone else owned and touched the very book you now hold in your hands.

Someone asked on Twitter what the oldest book you own was, so I thought I’d do a post showing the old books I have in my library.

The oldest, and my favorite, is a first edition of U.S. Grant’s Memoirs (1885). I have no idea how my parents found this for sale, but I love it. The cover is a bit torn up, though. I’ve debated taking it to an old bookbinder by my house, but I want to keep it in its most original state possible, so I’m still thinking about that. The fragility of the binding makes it impossible to read, but it is still very cool.

A friend gifted me this fun book after I shared the digital edition in my newsletter. It’s called How to Write Letters (1876) by J. Willis Westlake. It’s a compendium of advice on style, format, language, and more appropriate letter-writing etiquette from the late 1800s.

From the preface:

For convenience, the treatsie is divided into three parts:—

Part 1. Letters, Notes, and Cards.

Part II. Orthography and Punctuation.

Part III. Miscellaneous, containing Titles, Forms of Address and Salutation, Abbreviations, Foreign Words and Phrases, Postal information, and Business Forms.

I have a two-volume set of The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1930, I think…). I picked these up for $2 in an antique store. Steal!

I have Winston Churchill’s memoirs from both world wars. The first, The World Crisis, was published in 1918. The second, Memoirs of the Second World War, was published in 1947. (It’s a six-volume set, but I’m currently reading Their Finest Hour, so it’s not pictured. The dust jacket is sitting on top of the books pictured below. I don’t like reading a book with the jacket on.)

I also have Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume set of Story of Civilization, the first of which was published in 1954.

Finally, I have a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and a collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays that I bought at a used bookstore in either Kentucky or Indiana (it was on the border) for $8.

As the years go on, I’m looking forward to updating this post.