It's Not Nice To Fool Uncle Blogsy | Page 71 | Newberry

It's Not Nice To Fool Uncle Blogsy

We are sneaking up on our deadline, if the latest influx of donations is anything to go by. If you have not been paying attention, we try not to get any donations in between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. This allows us to try to polish off what you’ve brought in up to the Fourth of July, and recover from the champagne toasts that greet our record number of sales at the end of July.

Yea, it is verily that time of year when I try to convince you to lay off for a couple of months. And verily do I believe that this will do me about as good as always. Because, as I also like to point out, I would hate to have you give your Gutenberg Bible or your album of letters from Abraham Lincoln to somebody else just because it’s July 7. This is, however, the time of year when I get LOTS of battered old textbooks, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, and books your dog chewed on. (It WAS your dog, right? Mighty small tooth marks. You don’t have a dog? Might pay you to get one, friend.)

So we will not train a death ray at you from the fifth floor if you drop off books on July 8. HOWEVER….

Did I ever tell you about this little hardback book that came in? It was tucked away amongst other things which had been in the attic for a long time, and how it got there, I’d love to know. It had been printed in the early seventeenth century, when there were few books, and even fewer attics, in Chicago.

It was small, as I say, and had few illustrations beyond the title page, as I recall. And a previous owner had scribbled in every margin and filled every blank endpaper with notes. The notes may well have outnumbered the words in the text, which comprised the collected works of a man whose name I only vaguely recognized. But I mentioned in passing to one of the curators that the notes, to my untutored eye, looked as if they were in a seventeenth-century hand.

In about fifteen minutes, the book was surrounded by curators, all murmuring low to each other. “This might be the very copy he used when editing his own edition.” “That’s certainly all the same handwriting.”

They thanked me very much for pointing it out and carried the book off to some hidden fastness to await a scholar who could affirm or deny any of their hypotheses. I was glad they had taken a unique treasure out of my way, so I could get back to pricing Think and Grow Rich. (This was before the days of the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.)

I never heard about that book again, but the author popped up here and there. Frankenstein, Harry Potter…this and that book will occasionally mention Cornelius Agrippa, or, more fully, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, philosopher and one of the foremost practitioners of the occult arts of his day. As I understand it, the bulk of his published work and on philosophy and theology (he tried to reconcile his magic with his religion) but I do kind of wish I had paid more attention to exactly what was scribbled in the margins of that old book. My Latin is limited, but maybe….

Anyhow, the book must be upstairs somewhere. Donate books on the wrong day and I will not shoot at you nor throw your books in the recycling bin. But if you do turn into a small, furry rodent with sharp little teeth later in the day, don’t look to me to tell you where the fellow lives who doesn’t own a dog.


On Saturday of the Book Fair, exhaustion dropped me into a chair in the front lobby where I sat for half an hour just watching people. Many who came in the front door seemed new to the Fair and to the building---they stood consulting yellow maps before proceeding. Crowds came by, juggling armloads of books. Volunteers in red aprons stood ready to help. Brochures were at hand; books were waiting on the tables. Months of planning, and now the thing went by itself. I had the sense of a mechanical works that had been set in motion and now was running like a clever automaton, its master absent. Then occurred to me the image of Dan as Master Maker of Clockwork. All year he works alone in his workshop, head bent over his bench, tools in hand, tuning and perfecting. He sets words to music. Now for five summer days, figures march back and forth, pause, browse, wonder, bow, and dance.

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