Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pennsylvania Library Finds 174-Year Old Book among Sale Donations

Something like this is just unbelievable to me. How can anyone be so oblivious when it comes to books that they would donate a book that is almost 175 years old to a library sale? Was it not kind of obvious that this one bears little resemblance to a James Patterson novel?

The picture, at left, is of the book's author, Lydia Maria Child, who was 31 years old when this book was published in 1833. The fact that her book was rebound together with a slave's memoirs results in a very meaningful volume.

Volunteers sorting through donated books for a book sale found an abolitionist text and a slave's memoir, both dating back to the 1800s.

The books were discovered together last month in a single leather-bound volume that was clearly an unusual find, said Liza Holzinger, coordinator of the Bethlehem Area Public Library's book sale.

"When this appeared on my desk, I couldn't believe it," Holzinger said. "I was pretty impressed by it, especially after I started doing research on the topic."

The volume contained a first edition of Lydia Maria Child's 1833 book, "An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called African," and an 1840 second edition of "The Slave: Memoirs of Archy Moore."

Daniel Wilson, professor of history at Muhlenberg College, said Child's book was an early abolitionist text that received a lot of attention when it was published.
As a book collector, I have to cringe when I read something like this, but it is exactly the kind of thing that draws me to yard sales and flea markets when I have some time to spare.


  1. Amazing. I forwarded this story to my wife, who's been toying with the idea of starting up a rare book business, at first with books sourced from garage sales and thrift stores. Reading this story - which so perfectly highlights people's ignorance regarding exactly what they own - will probably seal the deal for her.

  2. Wow! All I ever find at library book sales are beat up paperbacks.

  3. Pete, you still never know what you will find or where you will find it. Over the years, I've found some real prizes among junk and even on the shelves of bookstores because no one took the time to really look at what they were pricing.

    I used to spend weekends here going from one bookstore to another, buying and selling immediately and usually turning a profit of $50-$100. Sadly, those days are largely gone (at least here) because the bookstore owners learned to price their material more carefully.

  4. Don't give up, Chris...it's just a matter of keeping your eyes open and knowing what's junk and what's not.

  5. I loved hosting booksales at the public library. We live in a victorian community and the donations were of the era, so I would alibris.com to get the highest price and fourth it for the sale. All proceeds went to Friends of the Library and I moved some books. I hate to think what they are giving away now...

  6. That does sound like a fun job, Maggie. That kind of thing doesn't seem to turn up much here...the big stink around Houston right now is what seems to be either a fake or a copied letter from Davy Crockett to his family back in Tennessee about what he found upon arrival in Texas. That supposedly sat in a desk drawer for a decade or so and has since been sold to the state of Texas for a bunch of money...without verification that it's authentic.

  7. That is big news! And, it just sounds too good to be true.

  8. I think it's going to turn out not to be true.

    Some are thinking that the age of the letter is about right but that probably someone in the Crockett family copied the original so that other family members could have their own copy of his thoughts.

    It's still a rarity, but not worth nearly the money that the state paid for it...sort of a second printing. :-)

  9. Even so, the historical content alone. Price, bah. The book! The story!

    My brother used to bookscout here in California. I'll have to ask him what he unearthed.

  10. Carrie, do ask your brother and let us know if he has any good stories to tell. I love to hear those.

  11. NYWildfire, no way to really say what the book is worth but, because it is a one-of-a-kind, I suspect that it went for some pretty good money. A lot of the final sales price is the result of who happens to show up at auction with some cash to spend. You just never know. But age alone is not really indicative of a book's value.