Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 18: From the library

This is Day 18 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why here.

inside title page of old edition of voltaire's candide

You don't have to look far to find the source of my booklust.

The photos of it are buried in a pile of other photos, to be rescued and scanned, finally, Sally, upon my return to Los Angeles, but my Grandfather Weinrott, a.k.a. "Gramps," a.k.a. Les, had the library full of them I was sure I'd have when I grew up.

There were always books everywhere at Gramma & Grampa's: bestsellers (including a few written by friends) on reading tables next to rocking chairs, and under a good light; sci-fi and thrillers in nightstands and nearby overflow cases; a mixed-bag of titles piled up next to every toilet in the house; glossy coffee-table books tucked neatly in a sturdy low bookcase near another reading chair. (I

The crème de la crème made it into Gramps' study, to become part of his real library, what he called a "working" library, a thing he insisted every writer worth her salt had to maintain. A working library included reference books, of course, but also seminal works one would want at one's disposal while writing various books, articles or lessons of note. Your Plato, your Shakespeare, your myths and and your history (European, North American and Balkan, for sure); the Greek plays, the German philosophers, the "important" modern writers of fiction and nonfiction (and "modern" went back to Wilde for a man born in 1907.)

What was loveliest to me about this working library was not the content of the books, most of which, for better or for worse (probably worse) never really appealed, but the books themselves. Gramps came up in a time where books were rare and precious things, like all things, because things were still expensive to produce, ergo good things, like the Great Works, were worth making well. His books were as beautifully made as most everything he collected, partly because he liked nice things, and partly because things were nicer. Many of the books had "plates," not to be confused with bookplates, which my Gramps was also partial to, and which are affixed to many of his books, and many more had illustrations, a word Gramps always pronounced in the archaic fashion, with the stress on the second syllable. (He also used that sexy, old-timer hard-g for "Los Angeles," not out of affectation, but because that's how people pronounced it when he lived there, back in the early 1930s.)

busted spine of an old copy of candide

The 'tater can give you any particular info you might want on this edition of Voltaire's classic Candide. It was published by Three Sirens Press, and features ilLUStrations by Mahlon Blaine, who seems to have been rather something in his heyday. I'm guessing this was originally given to me after either some conversation about the text, which I read in high school, or Aubrey Beardsley, whom I was obsessed with in high school. The ilLUStration featured here, for instance, had that kind of lush decadence that thrilled me in Beardsley's raciest stuff, like his own iLUStrations for Wilde's Salomé.

As you can see, the poor book has taken a beating over the years; you're not getting some mint-condition prize to haul off to Antiques Roadshow and make a killing on. But if you like old books printed on fine paper, or are a Pangloss-head, or wanna get your Mahlon Blaine on*, or just feel like owning something that was passed on from Lester to Colleen to you, well, you would probably like owning this.

Email the 'tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


*Someone has also created a whole lot of Mahlon Blaine merch for CaféPress, so you can REALLY get your Mahlon on if you want to!