I love book sales.
I love pretty well all form of finding books: libraries, friends’ bookshelves, used book stores, new book stores, consignment shops, garage sales, tables set up by enterprising souls, random boxes left on the street (though those are invariably disappointing) … but I think I love book sales the best. One of the things I miss most about Toronto are the annual college book sales — now there are treasures! Books in Latin, books in French, old books, new books, academic books, fiction and all sorts of curious byways of literary history.
I don’t know that I can say what my best find was, in any of the used-book emporia I have frequented. The time I found Charles Williams’ Taliessin, in a used bookstore in Stratford-upon-Avon comes to mind, but though I was delighted to find the book it was not exactly a great deal. I paid a fair price for it, and was pleased to find it. Gardening books–Penelope Hobhouse’s On Gardening from a charity shop in Pwllheli, three hardcover Gertrude Jekyll texts from a used bookstore somewhere in rural Utah not far from Bryce Canyon, various ones from the annual Symphony Nova Scotia fundraiser in Halifax. All these were great. Nothing matched the friend who found a very reasonably priced copy of the big Lewis and Short Latin dictionary at the Trinity College book sale in Toronto.
Or nothing matched, until yesterday, when I won.
I say this categorically, because, you see, yesterday I bought the complete OED for $25.
It took me six trips and about 45 minutes to get all eighteen volumes (plus the three other books I bought) from the university library where the book sale was being held to where my car was. After the first trip I moved the car somewhat closer, but the way that the University of PEI campus is arranged means that there wasn’t really anywhere closer to park, so I lugged my dictionary, three volumes at a time, through the snow and gradually freezing slush of the paths, grinning madly as I went.
On the last trip I passed a man who said, “Heavy books!” I said, “They are–it’s the complete Oxford English Dictionary! This is my last trip, I just bought it at the book sale.” He made a kowtowing sort of gesture and said, “Good find! I salute you!” and we both went on our way, me exceedingly pleased and him no doubt shaking his head–and I like to think, slightly envious of my luck.