Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Books of Antiquity

I'm continuing on The Great Book Cull. Some bookcases are fairly hard hit, getting culled pretty heavily -- for instance, miscellaneous literature -- and some I really can't get rid of any of -- for instance, primary sources or historical games. Unsurprisingly, the ones getting least culled are the bookcases that are mostly my personal reference libraries: I have to be realistic about what I may or may not read in the future.

But tonight -- tonight I am going through the secretary. The locked upper case of the secretary is where The Old Books live. I haven't turned that key in a long time, and I'd forgotten how neat it is. Most of it isn't specifically mine, but most of it's either too neat or too sentimentally significant for me to give up. Some of the better examples, as I go through the case:
  • The Dictionnaire Geographique, a dictionary of world geography, printed in 1778. (It spends a good column on Boston, and is quite flattering if I'm reading the French correctly.)

  • The Red Fairy Book, inscribed by Jane in her childhood.

  • The Lodge Goat, a century-old book of short Masonic anecdotes -- some probably partly true, some certainly not.

  • The Right and Liberties of the Church, Asserted and Vindicated Against the Pretended Right and Usurpation of Patronage. Okay, it's a religious rant -- but it's a religious rant inscribed in 1719, printed in 1689. The oldest book in my collection, and I found it for $12 in a used book store. Things like this inspire my fondness for prowling such places.

  • A Freemason's Monitor -- with gory details about Masonic symbolism, including a lot of the bits that are simply incorporated into modern Masonic ritual. Authorized by the GL of Rhode Island in 1802, printed in Massachusetts in 1818. And complementing that, Mackey's Book of the Chapter -- a full monitor of the Royal Arch from 1868. (Which I've carefully avoided reading heretofore, since it is still spoilers.)

  • Miscellaneous family Bibles, all gigantic and heavily bound, none less than 150 years old.

  • A thick and beautiful photograph album. From the style of the photos, it's from sometime in the mid-19th century, with perfectly preserved pictures set in pages as heavy as picture frames. All from Wilkes-Barre, which almost certainly means that it consists of Jane's family on her father's side. And two others, smaller and less well-kept but actually labeled, so it is clear that they come from the Riggs/Brewster side.

  • The Dictionnaire de la Danse, published in 1895. At some point, we really should take a prowl through this and see what it has to say about periodish forms.

  • Jones' Crowns and Coronations: a history of coronation ceremonies and regalia from 1902.

  • The History of the United States. Nothing unusual about that -- but this one was published in 1824, and was inscribed that year by John LaGrange, Jane's great-to-the-sixth grandfather.
Damn. It's wonderful, but also melancholy: one of the things that bound us together was our measured but deep bibliophilia, a fondness for considering used bookstores to be wonderlands in their own right, to be slowly pored through looking for treasure.

A story that not many people know, which is illustrative of our relationship. My senior year of college, and our relationship was a bit rocky -- not to get into the details, but I was getting distracted by another potential romance, and she was (after a couple of years of dating) losing patience with me. Then came Christmas weekend, and everyone was home in the environs of New York City. I spent a couple of days in the city, one of them with Jane and my mother, simply walking down Broadway to the wonderland at Broadway and 12th, then back up Fifth Avenue, hitting every bookstore along the way.

And it simply clicked. As I drove home the next day, I realized that I'd made my decision; I proposed to her late that night. The realization that this was a girl I could spend the rest of my life book-shopping with was, ultimately, what pushed me into marriage, and it defined us for the next 25 years. I honestly don't know if that aspect will be so important to me-that-will-be, but it was quite central to us-that-were...
Tags: jane

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