Library Finds and Old Books


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My Father arrived on a flight from the UK last week armed with a selection of books which were being sold from a library. Among them were The First English Dictionary 1604 by Robert Cawdrey, Plain Words: A Guide to the Use of English by Ernest Gowers (1948), and The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. For those of you who appreciate the smell of old books, they oozed the vanilla scent that is produced by aging paper as the lignin breaks down. You can read about the Science of it here . The content was of particular interest to me as a writer. I love words: their origins, use and translations and I used to collect dictionaries and the odd thesaurus, along with books of literary quotes.

Amongst the books my Father brought with him were a few on different parts of the world and a History of England which was originally presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in 1974. The inscription made the book all the more unique in the age of eBooks and I was reminded of the wonder of old books. We used to have a second hand bookshop at the end of our road when I was a child with the most unusual books and the same wonderful musty vanilla smell invading your senses as you opened the door. I love eBooks for the ease and speed of getting into a new book, especially as I live in a country where English is not the primary language and where the English books take up a small shelf space in the upper corners of a few bookshops. But I will never tire of the scent of old paper, of interesting inscriptions placed in the front of second hand books, of the notes scribbled in the margins and of wondering who the owner might have been, or whether there is a whole story behind a string of owners. Neither will I tire of the physical turning of the pages and the feeling of holding a book in my hands as I curl up with a coffee and a few hours of peace.


Author: fcmalby

F.C. Malby is a contributor to Unthology 8 (Unthank Books) and Hearing Voices: The Litro Anthology of New Fiction. Her debut short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo includes award-winning stories, and her debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, won The People's Book Awards. Her short fiction has been published in various literary magazines and journals online and in print. www.fcmalby.com @fcmalby

11 thoughts on “Library Finds and Old Books

  1. Just like you I love the smell of old books. The older the better. I always wonder about the people who have held this book in their hands. Read those words. And what lives they led. Thanks for a thoughtful read.


    • Yes, the older the better. I like the idea that the book has been through the hands of different lives. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.


  2. The first dictionary would be fascinating. Lucky you!


  3. Hi Fiona,
    I think it’s going to become increasingly the case, that with the rise of ebooks, physical books, secondhand books, rare books are going to be more and more valued as something precious. I love secondhand books and amn lucky to have a decent secondhand bookshop not far from where I live. I feel I have a moral duty to support such shops.
    Lovely blog post, and what great books!


    • Thank you, Ruth. Yes, I agree than the value placed on physical books, especially rare finds, will increase and continue to be enjoyed. Second hand bookshops are wonderful.


  4. Those books look great:) I love old books.


  5. The smell of old books….the feel of any book….. no reading device can compare. Sigh.


  6. Pingback: The Joy of A Bookshop | fcmalby

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