Thursday, 19 June 2008

Second-hand books - love them or hate them?


Fresh back from another successful rummage round Colchester's charity shops and rejoicing in a goodly haul of paperback novels, I really can't agree with Chas Newkey-Burden's squeamish loathing of second-hand books - but it's a very funny article (and has put me very slightly on my guard - should I spray my latest pile of bargains with something???)

9 comments:

Rob Spence said...

I think the comments on Mr Chas's piece put him well and truly in his place. Can't agree that it's very funny - trying to be, yes, but failing. He reminds me of a primary school kid who's just discovered that some words are rude, and goes around repeating them.
Mind you, if that rabbit is running riot on your books, it'll be worse than bogeys...

monix said...

I once read an article about the horrible things we can catch from library books. That put me off for a while but I got over it and I expect I'll still be buying second-hand books when I've finished gagging over this article!
I bet precious Chas was one of those kids who wouldn't play in the sand tray in nursery school!

galant said...

There are 2nd hand books and there are 2nd hand books. Would he turn up his nose at a First Folio Shakespeare which, no doubt, would be 2nd hand? One has to be picky if one wants clean 2nd hand copies, but there is a difference between old tut and clean 2nd hand and antiquarian books.
Margaret Powling

Juliet said...

Rob - Ha! Yes, the comments hit the nail on the head. Only one had been left when I noticed the piece but I see that lots of people are on to him now. I found it funny because it was so silly, really. He's going to miss out on *so* much by never buying second-hand (and not just nasty horrid germs, either), but then he is so hip and trendy that he's probably interested only in what's brand spanking new. Saw your comments on the plagiarism issue, btw - bravo for being so robust about it at your place, but seeing the number of 'copy-editing services' websites there are around now (I have been asked to join some of them but refuse and state my reasons quite forcefully) offering to write (not 'edit', 'write') essays, theses, etc, I do wonder how many students are out there busy passing off other peoples' work as their own.

Monix - yes, it's as well to put such thoughts far from one's mind when browsing through old things of unknown provenance. I have actually met some people in my time who shudder at the thought of going in an upmarket antiques shop, simply because 'you just don't know where those things have been, do you?'!

Margaret - I suppose everyone draws the line somewhere. I'm afraid mine is very low - bootsales, charity shops are fine but I've never actually picked a book out of a rubbish bin or a skip, and probably never will!

60 Going On 16 said...

Oh dear; I hope he never has to change a baby's nappy or clean up after a sick pet. Of course, there will be the occasional, iffy secondhand book experience - I once bought a book described by its Greenmetropolis seller as 'like new' but which arrived covered with tea stains (well, I think they were tea stains) and encrusted with bits of food. Which did rather make me wonder what that particular seller's version of 'acceptable' would be. Still, if I shared Chas Newkey-Burden's squeamishness, I would not now be the proud possessor of first editions of Hardy's Jude the Obscure, nor of Rosamond Lehmann's novels, not to mention almost all of John Cowper Powys's literary output.

oxford-reader said...

As a person who spends far too much on books as it is, second hand shops are both my blessing and my curse.
There are so many books simply unavailable through the normal way, and second hand turns up so veritable gems.
And if you're worried that someone's breakfast is going to appear smeared across page 25, then have a flick through it before buying.

I don't think Dettox is needed Juliet - just a little discretion over which books to buy! (Course if it's a first edition of a book over 100 years old, then snap it up, no matter what the state!

Juliet said...

D and OR - agree entirely with all that you say. Buying second-hand online does have its drawbacks in that one can't inspect (or smell!) the book in question and as you point out, people's ideas of what's 'acceptable' can differ! But to restrict one's book-buying to 'New Only' is to miss out on both form (no leather-bound, marble-end-papered books for him, no Golden Cockerel etc books, no Dent Everyman, no fabulously illustrated Edwardian children's books . . . I could go on and on ad inf.) and content (to be forever barred from reading out-of-print books? - what a terrible self-imposed waste!). Yes, one comes across the odd stain or residue of dubious origin between the pages sometimes, but I have also found pressed flowers and old love-letters in second-hand books, which are as much to be treasured as the books themselves, in my view.

Sarah said...

What a fusspot! The joy of second-hand books is their price, unpredictability (i.e you never know what titles you'll find) and reminders of previous owners, be it inscriptions, marginalia or even tea stains.

After reading the post I noticed that Chas has a double barrelled surname and I tho.ught of course, he is just like Mrs Thomas-Taylor on the Catherine Tate show.

C. B. James said...

I read Chas' piece and have come to the conclusion that he's never been in a second hand book store or bought a second had book in his life.

I think he made it all up inside his tiny head. Either that or second hand books in America are remarkably clean. I've bought 1000's and have never once found anthing worse than water damage and not much of that.

I have found old letters, valentines, postcards, bookmarks, receipts and once a grammer school report card from a rather clever child.