Raggedy, raggedy, raggedy book

I’ve been reading Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Nancy and Larry Goldstone recently. It was an interesting memoir about their introduction to and experiences with – bbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrr (that’s the drum roll) – book collecting. No one saw that coming!

 The Goldstone’s interest in used books started when Nancy needed to get her husband a “cheap” birthday gift. They had a $20 limit and she managed to find him a lovely edition of War & Peace for $10. (He got her a bath brush. sigh & simultaneous eye roll.)

They progressed to hunting for old books for their personal library (preferring modern firsts) and eventually fell victim to a collective collecting fever, visiting bookstores in Chicago, Manhattan and Boston and paying far more for some books than they ever imagined.

There were collectors in 1997, who paid $50,000 for a first edition of Tarzan. I wonder how much the price might have increased in 10 years? Happy fact: the Goldstones have 2 other books about book collecting so if I track them down I can read further and get like smarter and stuff. Finding this book in the library was just a lucky accident – kind of like finding a special old book at a dusty out of the way shop or library book sale.

I bought my first old book at an antique show when I was 13. I paid $1 for Riley Child-Rhymes (James Whitcomb Riley) with Hoosier pictures by Will Vawter. The sticky little $1 tag is still inside the front cover, opposite my gigantic teenage handwriting, written in green ink with my favorite fat 4-color Bic pen. It was published in 1905 by The Bobbs-Merril Company. I wasn’t sure what Hoosier pictures were but when I put on my thinkin’ cap, I done figgered that since Riley was from Indiana and known as the “Hoosier poet” and Vawter was a Hoosier too – they was Hoosier pictures. 

There are wonderful poems like “The Lugubrious Whing Whang” “The Happy Little Cripple” “Our Hired Girl” and “The Raggedy Man”. My favorite is “The Bumblebee”.

You better not fool with a Bumblebee!-

Ef you don’t think they can sting – you’ll see!

They’re lazy to look at, an kindo’ go

Buzzin’ an’ bummin’ aroun’ so slow

An’ ac’ so slouchy an’ all fagged out,

Danglin’ their legs as they drone about…

Are you getting the dialectical awesomeness? I love this little book with its darling illustrations and its talk of pigs and beeswax and Dicki Swope and Hamey Tincher and the hole ‘at the Wunks is got.

It’s definitely worn in a lovely Velveteen Rabbit way, but like the Goldstone’s pointed out, “You don’t really need first editions at all. They are just affectations, excuses for dealers to run up the price on you, charge you a lot of money for something that doesn’t read any better than any other edition.” HUZZAH!!

Is it the gibber of Gungs or Keeks?

Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

Oh what is the sound that the Whing-Whang seeks?

Crouching low by the winding creeks

And holding his breath for weeks and weeks!

Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

[FURTHER NOTE: If I had a valentine, he would be well-advised to use this in some manner of valentine card. I think it’s swell.]


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