Back to bookselling
In July, I resumed my interrupted side hustle as an online bookseller. It has occupied both mind and body almost fulltime since then. Today my body told me to slow down and put my ambitious plans to finish reorganizing my office on hold until I feel better. So I decided to list more books for sale.
Buried on my shelves I discovered many treasures I had planned to list and hadn’t yet. I decided to write some descriptions and then photograph the books for Instagram. I recently found followers that would like these old books — even those that are falling apart.
So I began to pull the books off the shelf and look through them to decide which photos to take. I also needed to compose accurate descriptions of content and appearance. And then I got stuck.
Maybe I’m not through with this book
Books are a bit like people. You shouldn’t judge them by their covers. I’m putting together an Instagram story about this book with the photos I found inside of it. That will help sell it. But when I started looking closely at the content, I found this book was more than I’d given it credit for. It was designed for students living in 1901 when it was published, but it had some content I wanted to spend more time with. I asked the question every bookseller has asked at some time: Do I really want to part with this book?
Back in those days, people didn’t have movies, TV, and other forms of entertainment we rely on to keep ourselves amused today. Schools put on programs to entertain their communities. Students gave dramatic recitations of poems and stories curated for that purpose. They came from the best authors then available — what we’d call the classics. The students reciting often wore costumes. Sometimes the students also performed skits or plays.
It’s what’s inside that counts
The book in the photo is partly a collection of curated recitations. These are accompanied by color and black and white illustrations of speakers using appropriate gestures for students to learn. Both selections and illustrations offer historic insights into early twentieth-century culture.
The book also offers instruction. It teaches students how to write a composition. It explains the parts of speech and what writers needed to know about grammar back then. It explains how to outline and then use the outline to write or tell a story. It explains how to compose and write letters. Remember that dying art?
The book features narrative poems and suggests students try to turn them into stories. Then it explains how to embellish those stories with various kinds of figures of speech. So it helps story-tellers, as well as writers.
After it has taught students to write it offers several pages of titles for possible compositions. It then provides a mini dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. Readers are then treated to pages of illustrations of the various gestures costumed performers are using.
Much of this book’s content would not make it into any American anthology today. If it was ever politically correct, it was politically correct for 1901. It reflected that culture. Yet some of the stories, poems, and orations in this book have survived the test of time and people still read and teach them in schools today. Nostalgia lovers will enjoy the illustrations.
I think I might want to become better acquainted with this book before I try to sell it. It won’t fetch a high price for because of its condition, so I’ll do what many booksellers do with such a book. I’ll price it so that no one is likely to buy it until I’m ready to lower the price and part with it. And if someone buys it before then, at least I won’t feel so bad about losing it.
Have you ever decided to keep a book you had planned to get rid of? Do books that reflect what your culture used to think important interest you?