(Excuse the awful photos. You’re not allowed to bring bags inside and I didn’t feel like carrying around my big camera.)
Aren’t fundraising book sales supposed to be folksy affairs with too many tattered copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth? Not Trinity College’s:
It is this country’s – and possibly this continent’s – greatest celebration of the allegedly dead medium known as the printed word. There are some 50,000 books being hawked, ranging from a rare 1884 world atlas selling for $100 to vintage literary paperbacks – Eliot, Hemingway, Richler – selling for pocket change. Nowhere else will you find a table of secondhand theology books assembled by an actual theologian.
How many other book sales get written up by the Globe and Mail? For those who want first crack at the offerings on the first day, they’ll have to stand in line for hours behind veteran collectors and fork over $5 for admission. It’s that hardcore.
To get an idea of how large this event is, last year’s book sale had 100,000 books and raised over $136,000. (Seeing these two stats together should also give you an idea of how good the deals are.) The listing on BookSaleFinder.com (a lovely gem — worth a poke around) gives it the coveted “BIG SALE” label.
When I first came to UofT, this and the other similar book sales on campus were Nirvana. I’d stumble home with piles of books, busting open more than a few backpacks in the process. But when I moved downtown, I became tired of dealing with “stuff” and implemented a zero-input policy for my apartment. This means absolutely no book buying (thankfully the internet is a big place). It’s surprisingly zen.
So why do I keep tempting myself by going to these book sales?
Believe it or not, this is from the “Treasures” room. It’s hallowed ground for collectors — first editions, signed books, and rarities:
It’s filled with quirky books that represent different times. Like the glory days of eugenics :
Or history books written in the time when Christianity ruled the land:
Many of the books are breathtakingly beautiful. Like the cover art for George Orwell’s The English People, a strange book that he requested not to be reprinted. This copy is now in the possession of my friend Rob Duffy):
Or the beautiful gold foil printing on the cover of this otherwise crazy book about spiritual warfare written by one of the prophets of the Sevent-day Adventist Church, Ellen White:
His intellectual disciple and university colleague, Marshall McLuhan, lamented Innis’s premature death as a disastrous loss for human understanding. McLuhan wrote: “I am pleased to think of my own book The Gutenberg Galaxy as a footnote to the observations of Innis on the subject of the psychic and social consequences, first of writing then of printing.”
To the main room! The first picture in this post shows the space. This is where the plebs browse for middlebrow non-fiction. UofT dignitaries of yore stare down at you while you browse:
When asked where the US history section was, a volunteer unsarcastically directed us here (note the section’s name):
I read The Dark Side of Camelot almost cover-to-cover in one of those beautiful corner windows on a top floor of Robarts Library. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh shatters most of the sacred myths of the Kennedy era. I tried to force it on my friend Rob Duffy — a huge Kennedy fan — but he flat-out refused to give up his illusions. I secretly told his girlfriend Emily to buy it for his birthday:
A frustrated conservative ridding themselves of all their McCain artifacts?
Some volunteer probably thought they were being clever for using an oversized $1000 bill to mark the Business section:
The one thing that shocks me is how much alcohol Trinity alums seem to consume. The books are all transported in these boxes:
All in all, a wonderful afternoon of journeying through times of old. And I even managed to emerge without purchasing a single book.