by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Books”

Secondhand Books

Posted 24 August 2010 in by Catriona

Down in Sydney and back up in Brisbane, I did—naturally enough—a little rummaging for secondhand books. I’ve been meaning to post on them for a while, but I became trapped in a nightmarish maelstrom of uncharged rechargeable batteries and the villains (namely me) who keep forgetting to recharge them, and then thought, “Sod it. I’m just going to use my camera phone.”

(Wasn’t that a story worth waiting for? It had everything! Fierce weather! A villainous protagonist! An unreliable narrator! Batteries!)

So the images are a little fuzzier than usual. Fuzzier, but somehow atmospheric (she tells herself hopefully).

These ones weren’t Sydney purchases at all:

Poor Bettina! I found her in a local secondhand bookshop. I only hope she hadn’t been blundering around in there too long.

And the book under Blundering Bettina is The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which is an old volume of mine that I rescued from my parents’ house before they could send it to Lifeline. Short stories rather than a novel, it’s perhaps my favourite Pimpernel book: much more rescuing aristos from the guillotine and much less agonising about his marriage. Oh, and the assassination of Marat, without which no lazy Sunday afternoon reading is ever going to reach its full potential.

The bottom book is The Daisy Chain, one of Victorian moralist Charlotte M. Yonge’s 160 works (“chiefly novels,” adds Wikipedia blandly, as though writing 160 novels in the days when “novel” meant “no fewer than two volumes, thanks” were no mean feat).

My favourite thing about this volume is the illustrations:

In this one, the child has been accidentally poisoned (by its nurse, obviously) with opium, which I guess makes this picture some form of Victorian necro-lithography.

Then there was the Berkelouw’s haul. This year, I took more photos of the inside of Berkelouw’s than I actually bought books, but I did snag these:

One would have to have a heart of stone not to buy a book called English Dialogues of the Dead, especially when it’s subtitled “A Critical History, An Anthology, and A Checklist.” How can my bookshelves be complete without that?

And The English Common Reader may actually have caused me to exclaim, “Score!” a little too loudly for the liking of all the ladies-who-lunch browsing around me.

Then there was the rummaging in Narellan Lifeline, which was punctuated by my over-excited younger nephew (he turned four that day) saying, “Auntie Treena, spin me round on this chair!” and (after I refused on the grounds of safety) adding, “I fell off, but I’m okay!”

Goodness knows what would have happened if I had spun him.

This is the fuzziest photo of the lot . . .

. . . but rest assured, almost every title includes one or more of the following: “castle,” “bone,” “time traveller,” “haunted,” or “mountain.” The exception is the top one, and since that’s called Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, I think any mention of haunted, time-travelling, mountainous bone-castles would have been over-kill, no?

But my real joy is in the last pile:

E. Nesbit’s Tales of Terror. I’m pretty sure the scariest thing she comes up with is the protagonist finding out that he really is as middle-class as he’s always been brought up to believe.

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