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THE JOY OF READING OLD BOOKS November 2, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in Books and reading.
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     I have the skeleton of a book about Welsh immigrants on the American frontier started. While searching for reference material, I came across a two volume set about Celtic folklore, specifically Welsh and Manx, which was available from the State Library of Ohio. When the books arrived and I picked them up at my local branch, I saw that they were older books, but was absolutely stunned when I got them home and saw these selections had been acquired by the library in 1902! They are obviously important books, because they are still available in  printed and Kindle editions, but what can compare to reading the 1901 first editions? The newer and Kindle editions certainly don’t feel, or smell, like these old green leather-bound treasures. I can only wonder, as I hold one of these selections in my lap, how many other laps they have sat in. What were the previous readers wearing as they read, and what compelled them to choose this particular selection?  I know they couldn’t have had a cup of Bigelow’s wonderful spiced pumpkin tea, but did they, like me, have a cup of tea at their elbow as they read?
     It is such a thrill to hold these rare books and extract bits and pieces of folklore from them. My local branch, due to lack of shelving, is constantly weeding books, so it is fabulous to find such old and precious items, and especially thrilling to be able to take them outside of the library walls. John Rhys, the Oxford professor who collected and assembled these Welsh and Manx fables from the mouths of natives on their own soil, would undoubtedly be proud that his work lives on over 100 years later. For me, the pleasure of receiving and reading these books in their first editions is a tiny, but very much appreciated miracle.

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