The Value of Old Books
Sometimes we receive old books as donations, the oldest being a collection of poems by Alexander Pope printed in 1752. This particular book was in impressive condition for it’s age hard back bound with color print. I was intrigued by the history of the book. Who was the original owner, and what was its value when it was first purchased? So, I decided to do some research and found some interesting information.
Books were scarcely available in the mid-1700’s. In fact, the first public library in England did not open until 1753. The average person from this time period may have had an unbound copy of The Bible in their home. Some were fortunate enough to share a library with a committee of people. However, only the wealthy had full personal libraries. Yes, it was likely The Works of Alexander Pope was a prized possession of a well-to-do person.
I imagine the original owner of The Works of Alexander Pope to be much like Mr. Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennet was not extremely wealthy, but he was well off. He had a personal library in his home, and he could be found there smoking a pipe and enjoying books. It seemed Mr. Bennet cared more about his library than finding his daughters husbands. Mr. Bennet’s books brought him status, and it’s likely he had his own copy of Alexander Pope’s poems.
We love getting old books as donations, and we appreciate all the books that come to us. We also understand the sacrifice our supporters make when they give up their favorite hardbacks and paperbacks. Without donations there would be no Literacy Coalition, and we try to be good stewards of what we receive. Interestingly, The Works of Alexander Pope 1752 became the top prize for a poetry contest. We find it fitting, and we think all of the previous owners would be pleased!
Written by: Brett Wiley