Posts Tagged ‘vintage books’

I dusted off the vintage books this afternoon, not to read but to, literally, dust. Spring cleaning. I can’t just dust books. I have to smell them, hold them, and gently open the covers to reveal what might be hidden inside: the claim of former ownership, the lack of a publication date or a copyright. My heart beats a little faster and I sometimes read a paragraph or two. Cleaning vintage book shelves takes more time than simply running a duster over them.

Many of them I purchased at yard or library books sales, careful to check the copyright and condition of the covers and pages. There is a significant portion of the books on that particular shelf I was dusting that are inscribed with the names or initials of my forebears. They are not only family in the sense that all good books are family, but in the sense that someone in my direct lineage once read and treasured them and oftimes someone else read and treasured them enough to save them and pass them on to me.

Most of them were handed down through the Cusick side of my family tree from my Great-grandmother Susan (Miller) Cusick and her husband, my Great-grandfather, Oscar H. Cusick. Some are treasures from one or another of the Cusick siblings: Uncles Art and Ed and my paternal Grandmother Sylvia (Cusick) Wilcox. My father’s sister’s name is in several of the books: Mary Wilcox. A few have my grandfather’s initials in them: Fred Orson Wilcox, husband of Sylvia. The books passed down by my mother are children’s books she treasured.

The collection of mini leather-bound classics belonged to Sylvia (I never knew her, therefor she is “Sylvia” to me, not “Grandma”). The yellowed pieces of paper slipped in above the volumes are the type-written index to all the books therein. I have seen other collections similar to this at antique stores but Sylvia’s is the most complete I have so far located. Shakespeare, Browning, Poe, Lincoln, Anderson, Kipling, Carroll, Dante, Dickens, Hugo, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Emerson, Dumas, and Longfellow – just a few of the featured authors in this treasure trove of literature and poetry.

Surely Sylvia was a dreamy child and prone to spending hours with her nose in a book!

I counted 21 books in the larger size. This is a smattering of the more colorful bindings. I have read Robert Service forward and back over the years. Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses” is charming and dreamy. the Courtship of Miles Standish (center) is a bit worse for wear on the inside – the pages are separating from the binding.

One book had a note from my dad: “This was always one of my favorites”. Neihardt’s “Song of Hugh Glass” which many a reader will recognize as the text from which the script for the movie, “The Revenant” was taken. it’s pretty heady reading in the form of an epic poem.

I need to write here who owned which books as a record of genealogy and ancestry:

Mrs. OH Cusick (Susan Miller): Ballads of a Cheechako (Service), The Spell of the Yukon (Service), and Sartor Resartus (Carlyle), Those owned by Oscar Cusick: Courtship of Miles Standish (Longfellow), Snow-Bound (Whittier), and In Memoriam (Tennyson).

Uncle Art Cusick: Tales of a Wayside Inn (Longfellow).

Uncle Ed Cusick: Whittier’s Poems (Whittier).

Sylvia (Mrs. FO Wilcox): Romeo & Juliette (Shakespeare), She must have loved that particular play!

FO Wilcox (Gramps): The Tragedy of King Lear (Shakespeare), Emerson’s Essays (Emerson), The Vicar of Wakefield (Goldsmith), and The Song of Hugh Glass (Neihardt).

Aunt Mary Wilcox: A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (Shakespeare).

Mary Lou (Melrose) Wilcox (Mom): Campfire Girls (Jane Stewart), Mother Goose, Pilgrim’s Party (Lowitz), and A Child’s Garden of Verses (Stevenson).

I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with the ancestors (I have, in truth, read most of the books and more than once). The love of books and the love of reading runs deep in my blood. I imagine rocking chairs, a fire in the woodstove, and flickering electric lights as the books were read in the evening. I imagine a young teenager curled up with her favorite Shakespeare tale, sitting in a front window where the sun warms her and lights the pages.

These are my priceless possessions, my books. I am never so rich as what I have books to read, and better so: my ancestors read the same works.

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I confess to breezing through these two books, both in satisfactory condition, and from my mother’s childhood book collection (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – only I kept every damn book, and she just kept her favorite childhood ones).

The first was written by a very familiar author, L.M. Montgomery: “Magic for Marigold”.

First Editions go for a nice $60-$75, in good condition. This is a second edition, printed in 1929. I am not a good judge of this book: I read “Anne of Green Gables in junior high, and I am one the very few young girls who did not fall in love with Anne, and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I do read fan fiction by authors who love her works, but it’s really not my genre.

Marigold is engaging in the first chapter, and quite funny. I fell in love with the cats, Lucifer and The Witch of Endor. Marigold never trusted the pair, but she loved all the kittens. And that’s really all I have to say about it, because that is all that engaged me. A true romantic would have been in love with the book. A true fan would love the book. Sadly, I am neither.

My first thought was, “You’re not serious? Isn’t this a comic strip?” Then I wondered who June Gueldner was. The book was published in 1943 and is worth only a few dollars, even in Vintage condition: too many were published, too many survive, and Brenda Starr only retired a few years ago, after 71 years in the comic strip business.

Still, this is an original by the original comic strip artist, Dale Messick. And it is rife with 1940’s clichés about working women. Oy vey. No wonder my mom was a feminist ahead of her time.She knew Brenda Starr was a romantic farce.


Yeah. Pretty much. It’s about a smart girl who becomes a damsel in distress and is rescued by someone tall, blonde, and handsome. We should all sigh collectively.

I do think Brenda evolved into a feminist after Dale Messick retired and other artists took over the trade. She stayed in her twenties throughout her entire life. And, truthfully, she paved the way for a lot of us feminists by being a Girl Reporter and getting the job done. Instead of mocking her, I should be thanking her.

Thank you, Brenda, for paving the way for women in the news business. Brenda had “moxie”, and a lot of it.


Yeah. I do not make this stuff up.

Fortunately, the last person to wear that hideous outfit was Pesky, that freckled guy on the left. The clam shells looked better on him in cartoon.

So — on to the next reading adventure!!

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Another vintage book review. I just wish this book was in better condition. It’s been well-loved.

I remember reading this when I was a pre-teen. The damage to it might have been caused by me, or my siblings. Some of it is just age and poor binding.

The book was published in 1926 and has my grandfather’s stamp inside of it, plus an inscription to my father, making it a Christmas gift from Santa Claus. I’m not sure why Gramps had to stamp his name in it when the book was clearly Dad’s. But, that would be my Gramps. He was just making sure everything was marked as belonging to the family, in case it ever was lent out.

I want to digress here: a friend of mine has been searching for a particular Hardy Boys edition. I searched all of my vintage books, but – alas- not a single Hardy Boys. And I have only this one Tom Swift. Most of my vintage Young Adult mysteries are “girl” books: Brenda Starr, the Curlytops, and the like.

So – the story. Oh, if only we were still so innocent as we were in 1926, when Tom Swift was written! The Great War was over. The Second World War was silently brewing, but we Americans were naively unaware of the winds of war. The Great Depression was still years off.  Young men in novels were still gallant and honorable. Tom Swift was coming of age at the same time as the young Indiana Jones, but without the aid of cinematic special effects.

Tom was an inventor, and in this book, he invents a coast-to-coast air transport system to carry packages from the Atlantic to the Pacific under 18 hours. Given the technology available at the time, that’s pretty astounding. The author imagines an improbable car that attaches to, and detaches from, the belly of the airplane.

Of course, there’s adversity, but Tom’s enemies are always a bit bumbling and Tom always manages to be a bit like MacGyver (escaping with just a paper clip and personal will), and the conversations are so… out-dated. But to credit the author, Tom’s love, Mary, is not portrayed as a dumb girl, but as a steady and thoughtful young woman who stays calm in a crisis and often comes up with a solution on her own.

The racism… Well, it’s just there. I can’t do anything about the casting of either “faithful servant”: Koku, who is described only as a giant, and who has a singular lack of English; and Eradicate, the Black servant who is portrayed as slightly off-center and jealous of Koku. I suppose that it was meant to be an “inclusive” novel, giving small parts to other nationalities. It’s kind of offensive in its betrayal of minor characters, but (I guess) at least they were given roles. Kind of Orphan Annie supporting roles, I think.

If I flash back to my father’s childhood: the Tom Swift books were no doubt exciting and innovating.

If I flash back to my childhood: Tom Swift was fun, and I was too naive to understand the subtleties.

For my grandchildren: the book is a white elephant.

It isn’t worth anything in the condition it is in, unless my father’s hand-written signature somewhere inside counts for something.

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If you follow my blog, you may remember that I recently sorted all our books and redid all of our bookcases.

Then I went to Nevada and retrieved my inheritance.

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Aiyiyi… I still have three boxes unpacked! I have: Reader’s Digest “classic” books, paperback mysteries, childhood Scholastic books, history books, a vintage animal encyclopedia set, vintage field guides, and just plain vintage books. Lots and lots of vintage books.

005Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter; the Curly Tops; Emerson; Shakespeare; the Bobbsey Twins; childhood nursery rhymes; vintage Forestry books (and that’s just what I have unpacked).

008If you’ve never read the Billy Whiskers series, you are sorely missing out. Billy pulled a cart and got into all kinds of mischief. (These books are *not* in good shape, sadly.)

021PIPPI! Books illustrated by Sam Savitt! ALL of my favorite Scholastic prizes!

Did I mention I still have three more boxes to unpack, all bankers box size? There’s no way that I will get to these any time soon as summer is nearly upon us and the heat index is rising for this weekend (too hot to be working in the loft – I will be doing something outside in the shade)!

BOOKS! All that READING. Classics! The House of Seven Gables. Poetry. Cheap mysteries! Tom Clancy. BOOKS!!

Um, can you tell that I’m a bit of a bibliophile? I hoard books. I can’t part with books. There are books in there about the exploration of the Great Basin.

First, however, I need to finish The Circle of Ceridwen, books 1-3, by Octavia Randolph…














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