There’s nothing like the excitement and anticipation when a long sought book arrives in the mail. I had two gems stuffed in the mailbox within days, and a third as a bonus. When the books are vintage children’s illustrated ones, the thrill of cutting loose the tape (usually with anything that seems remotely sharp, like pens, keys, nail files, because the scissors are too far away for my impatient fingers), ripping the tough cardboard, unwrapping the newspaper or other protectant and finally touching the front boards, is exquisite. Since I’ve ended jewelry making and turned to selling digital downloads, I’m allowing myself purchases of illustrated books that normally would have been passed by, because the artwork within wouldn’t register small enough for a pin. Nothing extravagant, my budget ranges from 10 to 28 bucks-tops. Usually on the lower end, because it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of dough on a book if you cannot reclaim it through sales. Naturally, I convince myself the only reason I want these particular items is for the business, not for the sheer pleasure of owning them.
A volume I had seen on the internet made me crave a copy of my own–so in this way, at least, I’ve answered one of my other posts’ questions, ‘does the availability of
illustrated art from books on the internet deter sales of the real thing?’–No. It made me want it all the more, so I could see up close the details and colors a computer screen simply can’t provide. Fairy Tales From All Nations, edited by Logan Marshall, published in 1911 has 29 deeply colored uncredited plates of fantastical doings, and the front board is sublime–a inlaid print with a maiden atop a giant fish. It’s in remarkable condition for it’s age and use. I searched online for this edition for a couple of years, off and on, but what came up was repeatedly out of my price range. For the heck of it, I tried again, and I was shocked when not one, but two editions turned up. One was $25.00-which normally is an amazing price, but the other was phenomenal at $10.00. The key question–were all the plates intact and undamaged–or at least not damaged too much. The description of the $25.00 book sounded ragged, boards and hinges loose, etc. But the description of the cover fit the edition I was looking for–because I knew there was another edition out there with a different, later cover. The $10.00 one had barely any description. I e-mailed both parties, the former replied with bad news, not all plates were accounted for. The latter not only had all plates, but the cover was correct. I was thrilled, and politely declined the first while jubilantly ordering from the second. What made me laugh, the seller of the second copy asked, “You’re not going to remove the plates to sell, are you?” If only she knew how much I abhor the practitioners of that, and how I actively, in my own way, combat them. I made it clear, I had no intention of doing so, and the book finally arrived from California after what seemed like an eternity.
On the other hand, a book sent from the UK appeared to have been beamed to me via Star Trek’s transporter. A great pal on flickr who has sent me goodies before, decided he wanted a first edition of Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Margaret L. Woods, and illustrated by J. Hancock, and said he would give me the copy he had now. I didn’t expect to see the book for quite some time–copies of this title seem almost non existent. I found one in the UK I wrote about previously, within budget, until the astronomical shipping was tacked on. Another copy in the US popped up on sale for $75.00, but the condition was iffy and I couldn’t afford it any way. I told my friend, he declined saying he wanted a better copy considering the condition. So, I figured, that was that, hopefully he would find one some day, and the other would be mine. Well, he gave me a fantastic Christmas present by saying he was sending me the book anyway, even if he didn’t own a copy! I was gobsmacked! And never expected to see it before the holiday. The last time the poor man sent me books, there was a blizzard on the east coast that kept mailbag trucks frozen at JFK airport where international mail first arrives. I know this because one of
my best friends works for said company at the airport. But until I questioned him, both my flickr friend and I believed the shipment had been lost. Boy oh boy, when it showed up one day, I did the little book happy dance– (I made up this dance–by the way)–and savored every illustration. Come Unto These Yellow Sands have some of the oddest and most wonderful of illustrations I’ve ever seen. I cannot imagine what the storyline is–and that makes the entire prospect of reading it even better. There are odd, very odd fairies; some kind of underwater female that takes her crab pets for walks; a couple of really creepy demon like characters; and an old invisible lady. I mean, what more could any human crave?
The third book is another Volland–one I have never seen online–meaning, I’ve not seen plates from it, the book has been available–again, priced out of range. Either more copies have been recently printed, lol, or there are many individuals selling whatever they found from attics, in-laws, dusty bins, etc., because suddenly there are affordable copies of books I decided I had to live without. The Friends of Jimmie is another delightfully deco illustrated book by Gertrude Alice Kay, one of the Volland’s signature stylists of pastel hues and soft lines. Printed in 1926, it’s also written by the illustrator. It’s the ninth printing, better than the 28th, but not as good as a first, obviously, because several plates are minutely out of register, meaning, the colors don’t fit correctly into the lines, and it can make the viewer think his eyes are out of focus. Luckily, I believe I can correct some of them–with tedious photoshop work–but considering the price–I’m OK with that. It’s a gorgeous profusely illustrated volume, and I’m excited about scanning the art.
I was amazed and proud of myself! I waited, honestly waited a couple of days until I could open Fairy Tales From All Nations with my husband present. What should arrive today? The other two books. We sat down and I exclaimed excitedly over each picture, chattering about what made them special, asking him didn’t he agree, didn’t he think they were unbelievable, wasn’t it wonderful to be the possessor of these rare beautiful things? Here’s the problem with that best book feeling–most of the time, it’s not communicable. Your best book isn’t the next guy’s best book, and in this case, although my husband was appreciative of my friend’s gift, and happy for me, he didn’t do back flips, which I expect for each new acquisition! Sometimes, we are completely in sync in best book feelings, this
was not one of those times. Doesn’t matter.
How long does best book feeling last? Not long enough. Tomorrow I’ll crave another book and another until I pin one down, and I experience that best book feeling again.
Footnote–I have around 10 other articles half written or lined up–but when that best book feeling strikes, I just had to share!