October 26, 2009 in Writing
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October 26, 2009 · Writing

Treasures from the Trinity College Book Sale

A journey through time courtesy of one of Canada’s best book sales.

Trinity College Book Sale

(Excuse the awful photos. You’re not allowed to bring bags inside and I didn’t feel like carrying around my big camera.)

Trinity College Book Sale

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?

To witness moments like this: Michael Moore sitting next to an early edition of MaCaulay’s History of England:

Trinity College Book Sale

Believe it or not, this is from the “Treasures” room. It’s hallowed ground for collectors — first editions, signed books, and rarities:

Trinity College Book Sale

Trinity College Book Sale

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It’s filled with quirky books that represent different times. Like the glory days of eugenics :

Trinity College Book Sale

Or history books written in the time when Christianity ruled the land:

Trinity College Book Sale

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):

Trinity College Book Sale

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:

Trinity College Book Sale

How about $45 for a dozen pages worth of utterances from UofT royalty, Harold Innis. Here’s what Marshall McLuhan, also UofT royalty, had to say about Innis:

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.”

Trinity College Book Sale

I spotted a pair of first editions of these classic novels (hang on to your Stephen King books, folks):

Trinity College Book Sale

Trinity College Book Sale

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:

Trinity College Book Sale

When asked where the US history section was, a volunteer unsarcastically directed us here (note the section’s name):

Trinity College Book Sale

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:

Trinity College Book Sale

A frustrated conservative ridding themselves of all their McCain artifacts?

Trinity College Book Sale

Some volunteer probably thought they were being clever for using an oversized $1000 bill to mark the Business section:

Trinity College Book Sale

The one thing that shocks me is how much alcohol Trinity alums seem to consume. The books are all transported in these boxes:

Trinity College Book Sale

All in all, a wonderful afternoon of journeying through times of old. And I even managed to emerge without purchasing a single book.

 

This entry was written by Andrew Louis on October 26, 2009 and posted in Writing. It's tagged with , , , .