All Broken Up

I have a book sitting here. No, that’s not the exciting bit. Happens quite a lot, actually. If I did NOT have a book sitting here, you could notify the media.

Actually, I’ve had a lot of books sitting here, because people have been very generous. I put this down to people wanting to clean out before the relatives showed up for the holiday weekend, but I understand someone has been putting it about that I stop accepting books on June 1. This is not at all true: there is no need to toss those banana boxes into the car and drive over with them at once.

But people have been rushing a lot of books over lately, including this one, which is a volume of the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Collectibles. It is the volume covering Lalique, Lamps, Lightning Rods, Locks, and so forth, and it is all alone, meaning somebody else is getting the rest of the volumes for Christmas. (Because this set has No L. If you didn’t see that one coming by now, you’re already on vacation.)

We get a lot of lonely volumes of the Encyclopedia of Collectibles, and we are willing to sell them individually. In fact, even when I do get a complete set, the customers often try to buy one volume by itself. (And some of the checkout people let them, but that’s a whole nother blog.) See, this encyclopedia is made up of articles written by experts in the individual fields, and if you happen to collect, say, Lindbergh memorabilia, you can read the article in this volume without having to buy the whole set.

There are other sets with numbered volumes which we are willing to sell one volume at a time, if we have to. A home handyman set which is missing the volume on plumbing is still useful if you want to read up on wiring. The R volume from one of those encyclopedias of cooking is all you need if you are cooking with radishes, rhubarb, or rutabagas. (Please do not cook them together, even for this blog.) The loss of one volume of English Poets from the Harvard Classics does not keep anybody from buying the Shakespeare volume. There are plenty of sets which can be broken and still sell as individual volumes. (This is the technical term for a set lacking a volume or two: it is a “broken set”.)

Um. I would like now to address the couple who brought me that 1962 set of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia which was missing the S volume. AND the trio who went to a lot of trouble to haul in that set of Encyclopedia Americana from 1929, except for volume 2. We do NOT sell broken sets of encyclopedias. Yes, I am sure there ARE people who would love to have the W volume because their last name starts with W, but this is not the way to make a lot of money for the dear old Newberry. Yes, I KNOW it works for YOU, because I have seen the label on the side of the box you brought in. “Encyclopedias for sale, ten cents a volume.” You were missing three volumes of that set. I hope you didn’t spend that whole thirty cents in one place, and I hope it will not break your heart if I tell you I bet you could have gotten nearly a dollar if you’d sold the set in one lump.

Sure, I get it. The S volume fell off the boat as you were sailing home from the winter you spent in the icebound lighthouse, and you don’t like to put all the other volumes in recycling yourself. You hope I will throw the books away for you, preserving your soul from the guilt. You know your own soul better than I do: will it really be better off under the burden of what I say about it when I see I have 23 out of a possible 24 volumes? Just asking.

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