Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brains and Buckwheat

Originally uploaded by Decrepit Telephone

Yesterday, in Cocoa, I found a bunch of old nineteenth century readers, arithmetic and grammar books. They were fifty-cents each, and I had a field day. Some of them are in okay condition, but most are extremely beat up.

Not that it matters to me all that much. I'm one of those collectors who, if I like it, I buy it, no matter what the condition is, so long as I like it enough. I really don't worry about making sure everything I buy is pristine, and I don't really care about what other people say about buying things in good condition. If I like it enough, I'm going to get it.

I don't understand people who's collecting interests are based on what's popular or what's selling well, unless they're a seller of antiques themselves. If I limited myself to whatever was popular, then three years ago, when I last knew what was popular in the collecting world, I'd be restricted to buying depression glass and vintage costume jewelry. There's nothing wrong with either of those things, and they're interesting in their own right, but I'd never buy rhinestone pin or depression glass just because I knew it was popular. (Now, if it was dirt cheap, and I knew it was a good piece and had the possibility of reselling it, I would consider it. Yes, I would.)

I do what the collector friends I know do, I buy what I like and I don't care how anyone else thinks about it.

Like these schoolbooks - while they're not exactly falling apart, they aren't exactly pristine. Some collectors would turn their nose up at them, and pay a hundred times more for a pristine, clean copy, but I wouldn't. It's because they're used and they're beat up that I love them. Because when they were used, the schoolkids who used them wrote little bits of graffitti, and did their work on the back blank pages and wrote notes and silly commentary in the margins. Some kept things they were handed under the desk in them, such as the one book in the stack I bought that has an intricately hand-drawn valentine from 1894 left in the first few pages, drawn on fragile unruled notepaper. (Unfortunately I forgot to photograph this today, and now that it's dreary and rainy here, there's not enough light to work with, so it will have to wait for its own blog entry.)

They're really a record, little snippets of these kids' lives - kids who have already grown up, possibly had their own kids and raised them, and then died. It's kind of odd to go through reading the lessons that taught children who have already grown up and used that knowledge and passed on.

Such as the list in the picture at the top of this entry - it's a list of legal weights per bushel that was written down the back pages of an 1870 arithetic book, by a young Charles Wunderlich in Newell Missouri. Brain seems to be the only odd thing on the list, other than the two different types of corn listed (which I guess one was used for livestock feeding and the other used for home-consumption, or livestock feeding of a different type.) By the successive inscriptions on the front pages, it seems this book migrated to Cape Girardeau, Missouri and was used at a school there until at least 1888, where dozens of other students used the book and left their own marks and scribblings in it, left to be rediscovered over a hundred years later. It's these things, these little tidbits of these kids lives, and of life in the nineteenth-century, that people miss out on when they demand clean, unblemished old things.

I like stuff like this too much to miss out on it.


I know I've missed a couple days, or weeks on the blog-posting, but things have been getting hectic with Christmas at my heels. I have relatives visiting from South Carolina at the moment, and thought while they were out shopping I'd use the alone time two do some photoshooting and blogging today. Hopefully, I can get back onto the blog-wagon more regularly when things quiet down here some.

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