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Reasons to love Second Hand Books

Second hand books are marvellous, they're artefacts of social history, pieces of art and treasured literary possessions all at the same time. 

Here's a few things to appreciate: 

1. Crusty, dishevelled spines and well handled, ergo well-loved children's books. Lovely to wonder how many times the book has been read. Was it part of a collection? Was it the only book the previous owner or owners had? 

2. This book belongs to...
I love seeing a name, written in child's writing especially, scrawled in a book. It gives the book a sense of 'belonging' and seems purposeful, and authenticates the children's book somehow. A name helps to imagine the child, the previous owner. We have almost the entire 'Thomas the Tank Engine' book collection, with the name 'GUTUM' ( sometimes a mix of capitals and lower case) scrawled on every cover inset. I love that this was GUTUM's collection, and we've managed to keep the books together, united by their previous owner. 

3. Cover insets, old ones especially, a preamble to the story inside, setting the scene in a whimsical dreamy way. I like it when they're stain filled and scribbled on, as I feel I'm looking at a picture that was once stared at, scrutinised and altered by tired child eyes and grubby 
little fingers. 

4. Random child drawn numbers: you find this a lot in second hand LadyBird Books I find, just the sheer logic of this secret message from a child's minds eye, and how this then baffles me, the adult reader, all these years later. What did they mean by this. What's the code? What was the child trying to say...if anything! It's a baffling mystery, that's likely to be never solved. 

5. And in a similar vein, the well poised, well intentioned child scribble. I think this is my favourite of all the reasons to appreciate second hand books. I especially love angry black felt tip scribble like those above as it's very final, very permanent and definite. I can also imagine the child who crept off and 'edited' this book thinking 'I'll get you scary dog, take that!' I think these adjustments are so aesthically pleasing, so meaningful, and emotional. They're pieces of real art. Perhaps I should set up an art exhibition displaying all of my second hand book hauls, showing the angry verve of the children and felt tips of this 'generation' 😀

6. Old books! You can get some really extremely old, beautiful books in charity shops, for example. I like looking at the different methods of binding, and the different inks, and 
justifications and print type fonts. The book above is from 1947- immediate post war Britain! How old is the original owner today? What was their life like compared to now, and when did 
they part with this book? In terms of social history, a want to wear archival gloves, these are precious and rare items. It's a priveledge to come across these old tired books. I like to give them a restful retirement, somewhere where they'll be safe and loved again. 

7. And finally, stories that have gone out of fashion. Some of these really bizarre stories, with the creepiest of illustrations, truly fascinate and enthralling today's children. We have a very strange first edition, possibly self published book from the 1980s about a witch and her shadow. The children love it, despite finding it unfamiliar and eerie. That feeling of fear, is in someways, part of the appeal and draw. We read this book, The Tinder Box, tonight. All of the elements of the story are very dark, and there doesn't seem to be a moral thread, except for the fact the soldier gets what he wants from killing a witch, paying off a show boy, and marrying a princess. It's quite refreshing then, to read something so much more like real life, than how the sugar coated modern children's fiction, would have us believe.  

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