Weekly Geeks – Antique Books

This week’s Weekly Geeks question is:

The other day I was noticing the old books on my book shelf. Old, meaning books that were “born” a long long time ago. Books that were published AND printed a long long time ago. (Not simply books that have been sitting on our shelves forever!)And it made me wonder what old books other readers have in their collection.

So this week, write a post sharing with us what old antique books you may have on your shelves, and tell us the story behind them. Did you inherit from a relative? Are you a collector of old and rare books? Did you just discover a certain book in a used book store and couldn’t pass it up? What’s the very oldest book you have? Do you even like old books? Or do they creep you out? Do you read and enjoy your old books, or is it more a “look and don’t touch” thing?

I love old books as well as new books. I don’t own any antiquarian books – old, rare and valuable ones for example. My old books are just that – old. I don’t value them just as objects, but for their content and some of my old books are not in prime condition. They are well used and well loved.

The oldest books I have belonged to my parents. The earliest is Where Flies the Flag by Henry Harbour. The book has no publication date but was presented to my father for “Regular Attendance at Vicarage Lane Wesleyan Sunday School during 1921.”  The inscription notes that he had “Not missed during the year.” In 1921 my father was 7. This book is in good condition, although the pages are now brown with age and I’m not sure he would have read it then as it seems hard reading for a 7-year old.

Both my parents went to Sunday School and each year were awarded books for attendance. One belonging to my mum is the Empire Annual for Girls which was given to her in 1925 when she was 11. Another is The Girl Guides Book and inside this one she wrote that it was an award for 1st Prize for Sewing, so that must have been from her day school. I loved both these books when I was a child.

And shown below are two of my Dad’s books – My Adventure Book and The British Boy’s Annual – this one was a Christmas present. They are both un-dated, although from “The Editor Chats” I see that he was asking for postcards listing the stories or article that had appealed most strongly to the readers to arrive not later than March 15 1928, so it must have been before that. Talking about the readers of The British Boy’s Annual, it wasn’t limited to boys as the editor wrote that he’d had a complaint from a boy that his sister had found it so interesting that she kept worrying him to let her have it for a while. I found it interesting too.

My favourite book of theirs – I don’t know which of them originally owned it – is The Coronation Book of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. I think this was published in 1936 as it was published before the Coronation in 1937, so I suppose it could have belonged to one of my grandparents originally.  It’s a history of the Royal Family and the Coronation ceremony, full of photos of the Family – including Queen Victoria with her children and grandchildren in the garden of Osborn House in the Isle of Wight in 1898 and our present Queen and her sister as children. Queen Elizabeth was 11 when her father ascended the throne.

I’ve spent hours as a child reading and looking at this book.

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

6 thoughts on “Weekly Geeks – Antique Books

  1. The oldest books I have are Victorian and were presents to my great grand mother Ellen from her mother’s family who were quite well to do farmers in North Yorkshire. One is a book of poetry with a tortoiseshell cover – sadly very badly cracked by the time I inherited it – and another is a second edition of Jane Eyre which I find incredibly atmospheric to read.
    Since I am currently in the process of tracing my family history, I love that I have things that belonged to my ancestors – it brings the connection alive.
    I also have a collection of books which were Sunday School prizes dating back to the early 1900’s from both my mum’s family in Leeds and my dad’s in Co Kerry as well as books from their childhoods too – I used to love my mum’s 1920’s school stories when I was growing up and I could never part with them now!


  2. Margaret – Thanks for sharing these books and your memories with us. I love it that you’ve not only got some fascinating old books, but in those, you have a really valuable piece of your own history, too. That’s really special.

    I know what you mean about the difference between antique and old. I agree, though, that the real value of a book is in its content, not the cover, etc. It’s in the pleasure we get from reading it. I’ve got several books that are so well-loved that I’ve had to replace them. They are the most valuable books I own…


  3. My oldest two books belonged to my mother. I read them as a child, and then inherited them. My mother received them in 1921 when she was a child.

    One is a book by Johanna Spyri, the author of Heidi; the one I have is called Cornelli, and I have never seen it anywhere else.

    The other is another “unknown” book called Elsie Dinsmore, by Martha Finley. The characters are Victorian and the parents in the book are severe and sometimes cruel.

    I was fascinated by each of these books, and now they sit alongside my newer books on my Baker’s Rack in the dining room.


  4. I have a very old copy of Lalla Rookh by Thomas Moore. Although it was published in Chicago, there is no publication date. I received it as a child from a family friend and have treasured it ever since. I keep it in a plastic bag since it is a little the worse for wear at this point. It’s bound in leather padded with cardboard. Beautiful little book.


  5. Those are amazing books to have and treasure! This morning while I was driving my parents home after they spent Thanksgiving at our house, my mother was telling me about learning to read using Girls Annuals. She was sick a lot as a child in Canada in the 1920’s and an aunt of her gave her a stack of Girls Annuals she had brought with her from England and gave them to my mother.

    I’m particularly envious of your Coronation book–v cool!


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