Jul 29, 2014

Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book

He never met an old book he didn’t like…

Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book Urban Archeologist: The Good (Old) Book


Books are like people. They have something to say. They don’t always look perfect but you accept them for all their faults. You don’t need to follow what they say but you are willing to listen and learn.

I can’t resist a good book… especially an old one. While looking for that one good sale that won’t break the bank, end my marriage, or leave me lonely on Father’s day, I stopped by a Brookfield sale on South Mountain Road. The first sale of the day and without realizing it, I broke the first commandment of “picking.” I arrived before the sale had begun. I apologized once I figured out what I had done, and the friendly owner, though exasperated from all the other early birds, absolved me of my sin.

There were a lot of items spread over several makeshift tables, but before I could settle in to dig, I was distracted by my daughter’s ability to pick out the one thing I didn’t want her to have. Fortunately, she did her own inspection and found the 60-piece Mousetrap style game to be incomplete and she passed on it. Whew!

The next item was a bag of miniature wooden doll furniture that looked expensive. I allowed my daughter to take it to be priced and when she came back and said “$2” I knew that something was up. I thought it might be the power of her dimples — they are irresistible to most and have melted many a shopkeeper. We learned, however, that a friend had taken over the cash box and when the owner returned, the doll furniture was recalled (we hadn’t exchanged cash for the item yet). It was a point to grow on as I explained to my daughter that it is better to know you got a good deal than to think that you might have benefited from someone’s mistake. She understood and settled for an odd wooden piggy bank.

Though I scoured the place, I couldn’t find anything until I noticed a lone leather-bound book in a box. By just the feel of it in my hand I knew it was old. Books can be a ‘dig’ unto themselves — Who owned it? Where did it come from? What’s written or tucked between the pages? The title page was a little hard to read due to an error in printing, but it was a copy of the New Testament published in 1828.

Old Bibles are a mixed bag — millions upon millions have been printed and I see one at almost every large sale I visit. Sometimes the centerpiece of the family’s valuables, they often are the best source of information about the home and the people that lived there. The center sections contain lined pages that were used to record significant events (births, deaths, marriages) that were updated as the Bible was passed down from generation to generation. When I find a Bible, I usually go to this center section to see if it will help me put the pieces of the story together. (See image.)

This little 4x6 edition of the New Testament I had found was curious and I showed it to the owner to make sure it was meant for the sale pile. I broke the ice by saying, “Well, that’s the oldest New Testament I’ve ever seen,” and asked if there were any other books of similar age. When she replied to the negative I decided to set the book aside.

When it was time to pay for my daughter’s piggy bank I was told, “You can have the book.”  Sometimes you never know what you are going to pay when you pick something up, even though I put it down.

Books are like people, once you get to know them, you can’t put them down.

Would you like an invitation to the Havana Yacht Club? Click here and bring your time machine because it will be 1952 when you get there.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.


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