Some Help | Newberry

Some Help

Earlier this week, we discussed the person who donated a load of books with signs on each box letting me know all the contents were First Editions. This allowed me to discuss the concept of the first edition in hopes of spreading information about collecting books generally.

But the incident also allows me an opening to discuss a little matter dealing with this particular Book fair and the People Who Love It (or at least find it useful for cleaning up the house.) And this is the question of what donors to do their books before these are donated.

All we ASK that you do is put them in boxes or bags for easier carrying. (We also ask that you put them in boxes or bags we can keep, and not just unload them into our Deposit Box inside the North Doors. It does NOT make life easier for us if you stack nooks in intricate piles, though you may enjoy it as an intellectual and artistic puzzle. Sometimes I wonder if all those table games involving stacking or taking apart stacks really make us a people better able to organize things, or just folks who like to make patterns for other people to…where were we?)

Some people want to do so much more. Sometimes this involves imparting information they think we need, like the one who told us about the first editions or the legendary soul who tied two books in twine and added a label which said “These are books 2 and 3 of a set.” This kind of thing is sometimes useful, and sometimes not. But it does not do us or the books any damage.

Other people, over the years, have tried to help us out by writing “First Edition” on the cover of the book in indelible marker. This does NOT help. It lowers the value of the book. As noted hereintofore, most first editions are not valued above rubies anyhow, so it may cause only a SLIGHT reduction in price. But please don’t devalue the book to let us know how valuable you think it is. A little slip of paper can be used if you MUST send us a note. (We also had that collection of classic sheet music which someone put in chronological order and then wrote the publication year in pen on the front cover. This was not as useful as he expected.)

Putting volumes of a set together can be useful: don’t use duct tape. Tucking a little note in to say that a book is autographed by the author is nice (though some day we will get around to the subject of SIGNED books. This will sound a lot like the column about first editions.) Many people go to a lot of trouble to protect damaged books: the number of books with damaged covers which have come in wrapped in paper towels would supply two rooms: one for the books and one for the paper towels. This week we dealt with a collection of reasonably valuable books which the donor had slipped into individual locking plastic bags (which were too small, so the bags couldn’t zip shut.) Much of this is unnecessary, but if it helps you say goodbye to your books, feel free.

We had some wildly collectible books come in this week. They were in marvelous, nearly pristine condition. The only flaw was that before donating these books, someone had gone to the trouble of taking indelible marker and striking out the name of the original owner. This is a thing I have never understood.

Removing a name and address is perhaps understandable, even if the person involved has died and moved to, one hopes, a better address. I am not a familiar of the Dark Interweb, and don’t know to what evil purposes the name and address of the deceased can be put. But just a name?

In the past month, we’ve had two donations where the donor cut a name from the books involved, even when it was on the cover. (We generally throw away books where the cover has been cut up, so this made the book Recyclable Paper.) We had one donation where someone had obviously ripped out the whole first page of several books to save the family name. Or maybe it was the date. Maybe you looked in the mirror and realized no one would guess you were over 29 unless they saw that book with your name and the fact that Aunt Booney gave it to you for Christmas, 1976.

One of our late lamented volunteers was a retired book dealer who decried this sort of thing in one of her catalogs. “What are they doing?” she asked.“Don’t they realize they may be passing up their one chance at immortality?”

I have listened to a lecture which was given in Chicago about a man who once owned a rare book now in the collection of the Newberry. If you have any ambitions about this being done one day for you, don’t grab that marker while packing books for the Book Fair+.

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