Kim Iles, Inventory Consultant
I collect old forest measurement books.
I would not like to encourage you to do that too (it just
increases the competition). You could, however, do a lot to help people who will collect books
50 years from now. It’s
true that old books or research papers have some interesting results or
ideas, but they are more important than that.
They are a part of our history, and a part of the culture of people
who measure the forest. For
that reason, I like having them around me.
Old forestry books are cheap too, so
they will not break the bank when you acquire them.
The ones advertised on the Internet are 2 to 10 times as expensive
as they would be in a dusty bookstore.
If you are looking for something really unusual, or want to find
out what is available, the Internet is a good resource.
One of the best sites is http://dogbert.abebooks.com,
where you can search by title, keywords or author by clicking on the
“search” tab. They also
have information on map collecting and preservation.
Collecting professional books is a different matter than book
collecting in general.
Commercial book collectors want a book that looks like it was just
printed, without a mark on it. For people like us, it is just the opposite.
We want to know who owned it before, see their scribbled notes in
the margins, and the series of bookplates that identifies the chain of
So here is the first suggestion.
your books. Put in your bookplate. Make
snippy notes in the margins. Add
a note to your friend when you give them the book.
100 years from now, people will enjoy it.
In all but very rare and unusual books, that is the right thing to
do. If you feel guilty, sign
in pencil, but
Book collectors call these
“association copies”, and sometimes this increases their value.
Want an ordinary copy of an old book on geology?
the way, it was with Charles Darwin when he was on the Beagle,
and he wrote a lot of notes in it when he thought the author was
screwball, then inscribe it to a friend when he gave it away ... get the
the paper “dust jacket” that covers the book, if you can.
They are hard to find. There
are plastic covers for dust jackets that keep them in good shape, and help
to protect the book as well.
photos in them. Photos
make good bookmarks (please – record who is in the photo).
More generally, that is a good place for professional photos.
“Look, here’s a photo in Gifford Pinchot’s book of him
fishing with my dad, and a little map of where they were.”
Do I make my point? I
keep many of the photos of myself with that author pasted in their
textbooks on the blank extra pages at the front and back of the book.
At least the photos are not lost, like so many others I have taken
over the years.
them signed. Most of my texts are signed by their authors, and it adds
something to them. Sometimes
a book is from the collection of someone interesting.
I will often trade a copy of something in my library for one that
was owned by someone whom I admire. “Look
– this book is from the library of Bert Husch and it was sent to him by
his friend, the author of it.” It’s
more fun to read than an ordinary copy.
It’s a simple thing to ask someone to sign a book or trade for
one you would like.
your old books away. Give
them to friends. Give them to
students. Give them as
recognition. Make them part
of the chain of people connected to our profession.
Your kids will not
appreciate them (although they will keep them in perfect shape until they
throw them away, because they will never be opened).
Think of your younger colleagues as your “professional
children,” and pass your books on to them.
don’t give them to a library.
Librarians do not like books – librarians like shelf space.
Half of my book collection was once thrown out by a library to make
more shelf space – sometimes after the author himself presented the book
to them. Besides, part of the
joy of such things is the joy of individual
ownership. In a library, or a
museum, who has that joy? Neat things should belong to people who
will appreciate them, and who will pass them along to other people who
will appreciate them.
A few years ago I had a very rare copy
of a first edition in silviculture. It
was the author’s personal copy, with his notes for the next edition.
I sent it to someone who taught silviculture.
It was too good to belong to someone like me who was not in that
specific field, and who would not appreciate its true value.
Make sure that these objects reach the right people.
The same things are true of old maps
(which I know almost nothing about) and old equipment (which I do collect
and display at meetings). Virtually none of these things have any
serious dollar value, and they never will. They have professional
value, and they have personal
value. Make it a point to
take care of such things during your time as their keeper.
They belong inside the profession, both as wonderful objects and as
reminders of the clan to which we all belong.
In the meantime, keep them dry, away
from direct sunlight, and free from paper clips that rust.
Avoid “Post-it” notes, since they can bind to the pages over
time. Otherwise, read them,
use them and enjoy them. That’s
what they were meant for. If
they get “used up” from that – fair enough.
Originally published April 2001
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