Thursday, August 17, 2006
Another box of books arrived on my doorstep today, this one courtesy of my dad. He decided that he was ready to let go of some of his old Scottish books but he was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be, so he boxed them up and sent them to me. My mom warned me that they were en route (“You know how you said on your blog that books find you…”) which gave me a bit of time to anticipate what treasures might fall under the rubric of “old Scottish books.”
I guessed Sir Walter Scott and was not disappointed. I’m now the proud owner of a lovely twelve-volume set of The Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley published circa 1820. My dad bought them the year that we lived in Edinburgh, when I was ten-years-old and he was about the age that I am now. I vividly remember the glorious hunt through second-hand bookshops for matching volumes. I don’t think it’s a stretch to trace the beginning of my own book collecting habit back to that time. So this set of books brings with it the immeasurable added value of fond memories of Edinburgh and of bookish pleasures past.
The box contained some other sentimental favourites that are not Scottish in origin but were nevertheless an integral part of my parents’ respective Scottish childhoods.
The Wonder Book of Why and What was the first book that my dad owned. It was given to him by a librarian aunt when he was five-years-old. There wasn’t much enthusiasm for books or education among the rest of his family, so I accord that book a lot of significance. After all, he did end up a scientist… I’ve managed to learn only the barest of details about that great-aunt in my genealogical forays. But I’ll hold on to the book as an important legacy from her.
These nice little editions of Alexandre Dumas’ The Black Tulip and Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge are among the books that my mom won as school prizes in her youth. I don’t think I’ve ever read the Dumas but I remember being fascinated as a child by the bookplate within that proclaimed my mom the dux of her school. I aspired to follow in her footsteps but was thwarted by the fact that no one in Canada knew what a dux was. I did read the Hardy. I’m not sure that The Mayor of Casterbridge was the best place to begin with Hardy, but it did lead me to Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, both of which I loved beyond measure as a teenager.
Finally, what selection of old Scottish books would be complete without Robbie Burns? This two-volume set of The Works of Robert Burns came interleaved with ancient newspaper clippings about the bard as well as recent notes in my mom’s handwriting that attest to the thoroughness of her preparation for the Burns Supper that she and my dad hosted in January. I guess next year the celebration will have to be at my house.
Now to find the shelf space for these family heirlooms…