My Life in Fifty Objects (3)

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  It would be easy (and I am tempted), to write the story of my life in fifty objects merely by making a list of the books that have influenced me the most. However, that is a series for another time. Nevertheless, there are one or two tomes which must be included. The above is one.

  ‘Irish Literature, Vol. IV’ (this edition printed in 1904), has an editorial board and list of contributors that reads like a “Who’s Who” of Irish literature. Lady Gregory, Douglas Hyde, W.B. Yeats, and George Russell are just a few of the more well-known names. Aside from the short stories, ballads and poems one would expect, the book contains many beautiful visual works of art, including landscapes—

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such as the lakes of Killarney, above, historical curiosities such as a facsimile of part of what is purported to be the first Irish newspaper, shown below—

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—a page from the illuminated manuscript ‘The Book of Durrow’—

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—and portraits, photographic and otherwise of famous personages, such as this pencil sketch of Lady Gregory made in 1893—

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—and so much more.

Naturally, it is the text itself (along with the book’s age) which makes it such a treasure; almost as important to me is how I came by this particular volume.

I’ve owned thousands of books in my life; many of them were given to me by family members and friends, others I purchased from various shops in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. Many of the books I currently own I bought in America.

‘Irish Literature Vol. IV’ is one such book. I would have thought I’d run across it in an antique booksellers in NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago, or some other major city with a sizable Irish-American population. But no. I found this book at a silent auction at a tiny library in a tiny town in North Dakota. The library was auctioning off books that no one wanted to read as a fundraiser. This book was the only Irish-subject book they had. It was also, in my mind, the only book up for auction worth reading, and I fairly have wide interests when it comes to books.

Trouble was, I had very little money, the book was not only an antique but gilt-edged, and I was certain that someone would out-bid me only to take the book home and put it on a shelf, never to be read. And so I bid all of the money I had—the princely sum of thirty-five American dollars.

The librarian looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. I had to wait a week to find out whether or not I’d claimed my birthright. It was a lean week for a growing boy far from home.

But then the phone rang and I was told to come and collect my book. I couldn’t believe it. I was over the moon. I had to ask the librarian, “What was the next highest bid?”

She just shook her head. “There wasn’t one. You could have had it for a dollar.”

I felt no regrets.

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14 Responses to My Life in Fifty Objects (3)

  1. A fascinating book and fascinating post. The start of my collection was G.S. Boulger’s ‘Familiar Trees’ which i bought at a Dutch Auction at school when I was 16. It cost me 2d, almost 60 years ago. I still have it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oglach says:

    Brilliant that you still have that book; I’m thankful that someone who understands a true love of books read my post.

    Like

  3. Heartwarming post. I’ve noticed that you never really divulge too much of yourself as directly as you’ve done here. Learning about you has been through careful reading of your stories imvolving your dad, brothers, wife, and mom. I enjoyed your words, as usual, and am very happy you’ve secured a book that means so much to you. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Thanks for reading. I’ve had that book for many years; lucky enough to have others that mean as much. I’ll be writing more directly about my past…in the future. 🙂 Maybe. Don’t want to be a bad influence on anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, the perils of *silent* auctions. Glad the book was worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. megaeggz says:

    It sounds like it was worth that much, at least you made the library some cash too

    Liked by 1 person

  6. skat says:

    This was fascinating on many levels–your description of the book itself, the tale of purchase and the unknown story of how such a book came to be in such a place. I can imagine years from now, your book ending up at an Antiques Roadshow. Such a provenance! And I’m sure the care you take of this precious object will tell its own story. Thanks for a lovely read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Thanks for the comment; I was reading it and I thought, “I’ll be damned if that book ever
      ends up on Antiques Roadshow, it’ll stay in the family.” Then I thought, well, I found it, didn’t I? So I feel if (God forbid) it ever does leave my tribe, it will find it’s way into the hands of someone who deserves it. I don’t know the tale of how the book ended up in such a place, but how I ended up there is a story of itself; that I will tell sooner or later.
      Many thanks for reading, once again, and congrats on your new blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • skat says:

        Have you every watched “Fake or Fortune”, the Found Art verification program? Once we leave this earth, there’s no telling where things will end up. I suppose, The AR may not be around, but likely, the book will end up somewhere you don’t anticipate. Of course, you could always bequeath it to someone worthy. 😉
        (Thanks.)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. oglach says:

    I will put your name on the list. You’ve several ahead of you. 🙂

    Like

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