Is Burning Old Dictionaries and Encyclopedias Sacreligious?
No 'Joy of Sex'?
You found out that posterity didn't care about old dictionaries and encyclopedias after Thanksgiving dinner, during that cozy family conversation.
You brought up the subject of who was going to get what after you shuffled off. After all, you had 3 generations of articles to dispose of, and it made sense to allocate them now and not have the family quarrelling after you’d snuffed it. You were surprised when your progeny told you that they didn’t want any of your old rubbish; this was the future and it didn’t care too much about the past.
They did take some paintings and ornaments, but you were left with every book; even The Joy of Sex was waved aside, which had you thinking that they were more informed than you’d ever been.
The next day you opened up the bookcase; the one with the bevelled glass doors, and contemplated all the dictionaries and encyclopaedias. How were you going to get rid of them? You could do a Ray Bradbury, but it would take a helluva big bonfire.
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
You pulled out most of the heavies –
7 volumes of Peoples of All Nations.
6 volumes of Home Doctor.
9 volumes of Harmsworth’s Universal Encyclopaedia.
20 volumes of Children’s Britannica published 1970
8 volumes of Waverly Children’s Dictionary, no publication date
6 volumes of Harmsworth’s Household Encyclopedia. no publication date
10 volumesof The New Educational Library 1962
You noticed an oddity as you gazed at the books. The spelling of encyclopaedia. All of the encyclopaedias had been printed and published in Great Britain, but the titles were printed in the American spelling – encyclopedia. They must have been published with the American market in mind. Even now, your spell checker was letting you know that you didn’t know how to spell.
As you considered your options, you checked out some of the volumes and took a note of the following photographs.
Peoples of All Nations
Published by The Amalgamated Press, London. No publication date shown, but all mention of 'the war' refers to the Great War of 1918.
Harmsworth's Home Doctor
6 volumes published by The Amalgamated Press, London. No publication date given but it would appear to be in the late '20's or early '30's.
Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopedia
9 volumes published by The Amalgated Press London. Again, there is no publication date but you can judge in what era it was published by looking at the photographs.
Decision Time - Centigrade or Fahrenheit?
Finally, you decided to donate the books to charity and phoned up three charities to check whether they would collect them or if you had to deliver them. The answers were adamant; they didn’t accept books. You should have been prepared for that answer, as hardly anybody reads ‘real’ books anymore. They read electronic tablets, and converse via email, Skype or Twitter. Even the timeless art of chatting to your neighbour over the garden fence had been superseded by Facebook.
You then decided that you could sell the books on eBay, and checked the sold prices for all of the volumes. The only set that had sold and made any money was the ‘Waverly Children’s Dictionary’ which made $23. That seemed reasonable until you saw the price it took to mail them – it would be cheaper burning them.
You could always have a yard sale, but that sounded like too much trouble; you’d have to find enough tables to set them out on in the front lawn, and then you’d have to heft them out there on your own, apart from which, it was past the yard sale time of year. Apart from that, you’d have to put lots of other items out in order to entice people in, and you had no idea what your other items were worth.
Then the light bulb lit up. You could have a tag sale. Excited, you phone up 3 auction houses for quotes. There were no quotes. Tag sales included every item in the house and were normally held after the owners had died or moved into retirement homes – and you weren’t about to do either just to get rid of some books.
When you were on the phone to the auction houses, you asked about putting the books in an auction. Yes the auction houses would take the books and anything else you wanted to auction as a consignment. The terms were 25% off the ‘top’ price. ‘Top price’ meant that the auctioneers took 25% of the final selling price before taxes were added. As well as that percentage, the buyer was also charged 10% of the final price. As if that wasn’t enough, some auctioneers had online auctions at the same time as their live auctions, and the online buyers were charged 15% of the final price.
That, if my arithmetic is correct, means a profit of either 35 or 40% - for the auctioneer!!! Does the seller make any profit?
Where did you put the thermometer and those matches? The only answer was the Canadian equivalent of Fahrenheit 451.......Centigrade 232.778.
We gave lots of the books away, but finally decided to auction the rest. A friendly auctioneer suggested we wait until he had the right sort of auction before consigning the books to auction. The right sort of auction is in 3 days. He is auctioning items and books from two affluent families with a literary bent. This way we hope that the people who attend the auction will be there for the specific purpose of searching for valued books. I'll let you know how little they make.
Books with a future
The books sold for $52.00, which was more than anticipated. The great thing about the auction was the fact that the books were bought by booklovers. They weren't destined for the fire pit. As for the bookcase; a friend with a 19th century home took it. He was horrified at the thought of it going for auction, as it was exactly what he was searching for.
It is good to know that the books and bookcase are sure of a future.