Eat the Secret Documents | Page 63 | Newberry

Eat the Secret Documents

Of course, we have discussed notes which turn up in books more times than I can remember. (I WILL get this blog indexed yet!) But in the last four or five years, I have been getting more notes concerning the books themselves.

There have been such notes from the very beginning, of course. Post-It Notes are frequently to be found in or on donated books, to let me know “First Edition”, “Signed”, or “Books 2 and 3 of 3-book series”. If it was not for these notes, I might have paid no attention to that beat-up old paperback book which turned out to be the most expensive book I checked last week. (It was a signed copy of Twilight, if you want to know how the world of book-pricing has declined. I, who have priced sheet music signed by Elvis Presley and magazines brush-autographed by Picasso, am now pricing twinkling bats. Great leaping honk.)

One of the major sources of in-book notes these days have been the online bookselling sites, especially abebooks. People are increasingly going to these sites before a donation is made, so they can check through and make sure they aren’t donating any books which might help pay tuition at Window Dressing School for the grandchildren. They will enclose half a dozen pages of book prices, presumably so I will know they’ve done their homework, and perhaps to save me some time. I don’t have to look up the price, see, because they already did the work. Since most of these seem to have been printed out two to three years before anybody got around to making the donation (it can take a while to look up prices on a thousand books), it doesn’t do me a bit of good, AND it distends the hinge of the book.

This donor was Old School, though, and took her books to an actual bookseller for an assessment. The book dealer seems to have written these opinions on small pieces of paper (NOT Post-Its, which can do damage) and had this to say about the early Victorian set of books.

“Torn, Stained, Rebound. Good Only for Reading.”

See, that’s the kind of thing that gives book dealers a bad name. Even saying it was a bad idea, but writing it down was worse. (Maybe he DID just say it, and it impressed the owner so much that SHE wrote it down.) His meaning, of course, was that the book had NMV, as they say it: No Market Value. The result was that the book was given to the Newberry, instead of going to decorate his shelves.

Well, the books were not very beautifully bound, but the binding was certainly solid. And the title was something that immediately said “Newberry Collection” to me. The Newberry has LOTS of people who don’t care what the book looks like, so long as it has the information they need. But the Newberry already has a set.

So it is mine to sell, 165 years after it was printed. The pages are not all that badly torn (I’m not sure what happened to the pages in volume 4, but what few tears there are have been neatly taped.) In fact, the pages have not even yellowed all that much: they’re very good for reading. The price of a set in decent condition, according to the online pricers, is high enough that I believe I can ask $100 for the set without blushing. If it doesn’t sell on Wednesday or Thursday at that price, well, as Evelyn always said “It’ll be half price on Sunday.” I’ll take the fifty.

“Good Only for Reading”, huh? That’s why the customers mob the doors on opening, oh note-writer. Send over some more.

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