Lots of success today searching for old books at local estate sales and flea markets.

I spent last Sunday morning in Rome at the Porte Portese flea market, so it’s a little amusing that I had so much better luck in suburban New Jersey. But then, I don’t really know where to look for old books in Italy, other than expensive dealers.

We started out today at a huge community-wide rummage sale at the fairgrounds in Far Hills for the Visiting Nurse Association. The sale had begun on Thursday with advance purchases for folks willing to buy a ticket for $25, so I wasn’t that optimistic, but I found a 2 volume set of the French historian Charles Rollin‘s Ancient History for $20. It’s the 1870 “first complete American edition” from Harper Bros., much later than the 1807 version I already owned. No idea why they claim theirs is “complete” in 2 volumes, when the 1807 is 6 volumes, including several maps that are not in the later version. But still a handsome edition, even if the boards are detached on one volume.

Took a chance on Vol. 3 of a 3 volume set of Mrs. Mercy Warren‘s Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. I was not familiar with her work, but it was published in 1805, which is very early for anything on the American Revolution. Got home and checked ABEbooks and discovered that few copies are for sale. Volume 1 alone is going for $200, and the three volume set is only for sale one place, at $3,500. I paid $2 for Volume 3. Checked Wikipedia and discovered that she is the first female American historian, friend of Abigail Adams and Martha Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, and an ardent pamphleteer for the American cause.

Also bought a copy of the Universal Traveller by Charles Goodrich, from 1839, for $4, sort of an early Baedeker, though I’m not sure the author really expected anyone to use his advice while traveling, given how few folks actually travelled. Over 40 illustrations, though they’re crude woodblock prints and someone in the 173 years since the book was published has colorized about half of them, though very professionally.

I also indulged my love of anything illustrated by Rockwell Kent by picking up a copy of his version of Boccaccio’s Decameron for $2. Garden City Press, 1949, but NOT the 2 volume, limited edition, signed by Kent, that’s going for $300-$500 on ABEbooks.

Then on to Denville for an estate sale advertised as offering 2,000 books. Most of them turned out to be religious or cheap copies of classic stuff, but there were a few treasures. Got a copy of City of the Great King, by Dr. J. T. Barclay, 1858, for $10, which appears to be relatively rare. Six-eight engravings, two foldout illustrations, several more in color, plus several maps, all about Jerusalem. Plus the Cyclopedia of Anecdotes of Literature and the Fine Arts, a collection of anecdotes and amusing facts about authors and artists, published in 1867, also $10.

I wasn’t counting on finding anything at our final stop, in Linden, since the sale had been touted as having a lot of old sewing goods, which got Linda’s attention. But in the attic, in a cabinet above a huge box filled with knitting magazines from the 1930s and 1940s was a copy of Kiddle’s New Elementary Astronomy from 1870. Wonderful look at the state of knowledge at that time, and it was included in the $10 we paid for 110 knitting magazines.

So, $49 for eight books, only one less than 140 years old.

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