When Old Books Are New

For years my husband and I have bought used books.  Most at library book sales, some at local yard sales, a few at second-hand stores.  At times we’ve bought so many books at one time, we’ve only been able to read a few of them right away.  The others were placed on shelves, with the promise to read the rest of them “someday”.  But life goes on, and some of those books are still sitting on the shelves, waiting for someone to open them and read them again.

Or, in the case of one set of books, read them for the very first time.  Years ago the library was selling a lovely set of short stories by Guy de Maupassant.  There were 17 nice, hard covered books in the set.  A little worn, but still a nice looking set of books with good quality paper and some illustrations.  I don’t remember what I paid for them, but the library’s prices are always reasonable, so I’m sure I paid less than $1 for each book.  I bought the books because I was familiar with some of his stories and did plan to read the books.  I also knew that the set would look nice on our bookshelves.

And so they have, for at least 15 years.  Then one day while I was rearranging books, I started to thumb through the set and rediscovered what I found out when I first bought the books:  many of the pages on these books have never been cut.  Did that mean that the first person who bought the set also thought they would “look nice on the bookshelves” and intended to read them one day…some day?  The books were printed in 1903, so I decided that after 112 years of looking nice on bookshelves, it was up to me, as the books’ current owner, to start reading them and appreciating all that de Maupassant put into each story.  So a few weeks ago I began with the first volume, carefully cutting the pages that were still together, trying to take time out of each day to read at least one or two stories.

Now Volume I has been read, and tomorrow I’ll start reading Volume II.  I doubt that I’ll read the book every day, so it may be some time before I’ve finished reading Volume II.  Then Volume III, IV, V, and so on will be waiting their turn to be opened and explored for the first time.  No longer just old books looking nice on the bookshelves, but books that give the reader that wonderful, new experience of discovering something new in the world by reading a book for the very first time.

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