One day, I received an email from a co-worker. I was copied on it; it was addressed to the library. Apparently, there was a large pile of old books in the loading dock at work with a sign on the pile that said “to be recycled.” She asked if we, the professors, could have the books instead.
You know, because we teach writing and research and stuff. With books.
In short, the library person said no, that the books were to go in a dumpster to be recycled.
Right. That was my reaction, too. Gasp.
I have a soft spot for certain things, as you may know from reading this blog. I like things with a history, with some wear and tear and a story to tell. And I like books – real books, with pages and that smell and bindings that creak.
So the idea of old books being thrown in a dumpster, well, let’s say it wasn’t something I could let happen. It was time for Operation Stealing, er, I mean, Saving History.
(Insert Mission: Impossible music here.)
(As one book-loving friend noted, “It’s not stealing if (a) they aren’t wanted in the first place, and (b) you are rescuing them.” Perfect. I love my enabling friends!)
My mother was visiting at the time and, when she woke up and got ready for the day, I asked her, “Ready to go steal some stuff today?” Needless to say, that was not what she expected me to ask her. To her credit, she said, “Sure! What are we stealing?”
I said, “Well, let’s call it a rescue mission instead, shall we? Sounds a little less, well, bad.”
We got to the school and there it was – a huge pile of books. Interestingly, the newer, paperback books were at the front of the pile and the older books were buried underneath or behind them. Not sure if this was done on purpose, but it was going to make this not only a rescue mission, but a fun little scavenger hunt.
One of the custodians who knows me walked in as I was surveying the job ahead of us. I waved and said, “Are you going to turn me in?” He said, “You’re on the security camera. I won’t, but you might be seen.” I told him that this was an, ahem, educational mission and that I didn’t particularly care. I then waved at the security camera with a big smile on my face.
He then asked if he could get me a cart. I love bringing others into rescue missions.
My mother and I started digging through the pile. At first, we didn’t find the old books, but once we had dug deep enough, we found them.
Among the books we found were Laws of Georgia from 1851, pictured above. Also, Laws of Georgia from 1862, complete with scribbled notes inside. I took a bunch more, too – 1935 Laws with beautiful leather-bound corners and a wonderful patina and more.
This one book, the one above, particularly interested me. Note the cover:
It has a bookplate with a Hebrew inscription and the date 1923. It is obviously newer than the book, which, you can see, has a printed date of 1873 on the cover.
But I wonder, even in 1923, how many Jewish people were in Georgia, reading the Laws of Georgia from 1851. I also wondered why someone in a law library didn’t wonder this also.
Let’s just say the books are now, well, safe. They are not in a dumpster. They will not be in a dumpster.
Dear Husband called not too long after we got home. “What have you been doing?” he asked. “Um, well, stealing stuff. Nothing big.”
Nothing. Silence. Then, “Well, OK. Hope you didn’t steal anything too important.”
When my daughter got home, she asked to read the book. Mission accomplished.