Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Odd Shelf

I saw a story on Yahoo! yesterday about a couple who is donating their slightly quirky book collection to Emory University. They have 700 copies of Robinson Crusoe, including some first editions. Wow -- that book was first published in 1719. Impressive and quirky. If that's not an odd shelf, there never was one.

Why Robinson Crusoe? The romantic in me likes to think it was "their" book -- that they read it aloud to each other while dating. Or maybe it was both of their childhood favorites and they bonded upon discovering this.

Ever since reading Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and Books by Larry McMurtry, I've been fixed on the idea of the odd shelf. I've been over my Korea collection and (in my mind) my U.S. collection, and I'm really annoyed that neither of these collections show any signs of quirkiness. The only thing I can even remotely brag about in that area is that I have 3 copies of The Girl In A Swing by Richard Adams -- the first UK edition, the first US edition and a mass market paperback.

I coulda been a contender, I coulda been quirky: All through middle school, I was madly fixated on Gone With The Wind. One day, I saw a copy of it in German and wanted to buy it sooooooo bad. When I showed it to my mother, she expressed happy surprise that it could show up in another language and praised the Germans for their good taste, but nixed my request to buy it and bring it home. "Why would you want to buy a book you can't read?" Just to have it didn't cut any ice. A few months later, I found a Spanish-language copy of GWTW at the base library. I kept that sucker checked out for months.

14 comments:

Angel said...

Loved this article--I think "quirky" is a fabulous goal to shoot for in book collections!

Jeane said...

Do you have a link to the original article? I can understand having three or four copies of one book, but seven hundred is a staggering amount. Was that the only title in their library? I keep thinking why- were they doing research? or just really enamoured of it like you suggested. My taste in books in kind of quirky- talking animals and mental patients- but not as strange as this!

J.Danger said...

why in the world would they have 700 copies of any book? Odd.

Bybee said...

Angel,
Quirky makes building a library feel like you're dabbling in an art form.

Jeane,
I saw it at yahoo in the books section. After I wrote the post, I thought maybe they collected the book because it's considered to be the first novel in English. You're well on your way to quirky...I envy you!

J.Danger,
I was trying to imagine 700 copies and my mind just boggled.

Sarah said...

Hey, The Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta has a number of foriegn language copies of GWTW if you still want to get quirky and own some of these. I love how the foriegn languages editions change the names of the characters. For example, Scarlett in Spain is La Scarlotta. Course, anything is better than Mitchell's original idea for Scarlet's name, which was - get this - PANSY!

Mandi said...

I love collectors, and not just because I used to make my living off of them.
It is actually very common to try and collect every extant edition of a favorite book. I have a friend who just launched his collection of The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. He is also collecting books that make an ultimate claim, such as: The World's Greatest Secret.
I personally just collect (a) books that I love in an edition I find attractive which is sometimes, but not always, a first and (b) books that have some appeal to me. I'm a sucker for interesting shapes, quality papers or bindings, unique subjects (I have books on Russian Portraiture, Highway Management and Haunted Irish Houses) and great cover art.

Sue F. said...

I loved Babar as a kid, so when I was in Sweden, there was a Christmas Babar book in Swedish! I had to have it! Can't read a word of it!

BTW-love your blog!

MyUtopia said...

I have a couple of "quirky" books. Expectant Motherhood from the 40's is one of my favorite oddities.

John Mutford said...

I have a Bible written in Inuktitut syllabics that I can't read. That's it as far as quirk goes.

jessi said...

I read a similar article in an Atlanta paper about that couple. It's pretty cool. The only "quirky" books I have are my different editions of various Harry Potters - I have the US, UK, and Spanish editions of Sorcerer's Stone, and the US and Spanish editions of Chamber of Secrets. I also have one comic book in Italian, but I can't understand it! :)

Dark Orpheus said...

Go quirky all the way, Bybee!

I know of a customer who collects The Little Prince in various translations everywhere he goes.

Carrie K said...

I'm afraid my library collection is quirky enough without even trying. It is an art form! Painted w/words.

Jessica said...

I had a Japanese edition of "Out on a Limb." I tend not to keep books around very long, though. I guess what's odd about my shelves is that they're packed with library books!

Lesley said...

Wow ... 700 copies of one book?!

Seeing as how I'm only about a half hour outside of Atlanta, if they ever put this collection on display I might have to go just so I can say I've seen it!

I don't think I really have any odd characteristics to my library, either. How was the McMurtry book?