Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow.

It's that time again ... not just for blogging, but for snow! We had to bring in our cart full of bargain-priced books because it was all dusted up. I guess most Chicago residents have already seen the first snow, but I was away for Thanksgiving, so it's all exciting for me.

-- Almost as exciting as learning that we have a copy of unpublished Jane Austen chapters, which is my Favorite thing ever, or at least this week:

I found one of our regulars sighing over this slender volume, and she explained to me that it's two unpublished chapters of Persuasion, from the first draft. Intrigued, I opened it up to find not just the chapters themselves, but a facsimile of Austen's manuscript:

I then learned from an exhaustive site about Jane Austen's writings that the original draft of these two chapters was, in fact, the only original draft of any of Jane Austen's writings to survive. Everything else she wrote survived only in the spotless clean copy that was published. Even better, this is a really elegant edition, in beautiful condition. The pages are even uncut, which means that they were never separated from each other -- so this copy has never been read! We're selling it for $75.00, and I can't help but note that it really would be the perfect gift for a beloved Austen fan.

If your beloved happens to be a Darwin fan instead, then boy, do we have a Collector's Item for them:

Donald Johanson is the archaelogist who discovered "Lucy", the skeleton of the oldest hominid ever to walk upright. He was funded by a gentleman named Leighton Wilkie, who had made his fortune with the DoAll tool corporation, and had a passion for scientific discovery and the history of tool use. (Wilkie also funded Jane Goodall and other important researchers.) What we're selling here is not just a plain old copy of Johanson's famous book Ancestors -- but a small archive of letters and documents he sent Wilkie over the course of his research. There are grateful notes thanking Wilkie for his contributions ("Your grant of $1000 ... will help support such important projects as continuing excavations at Olduvai Gorge"), and there's even a copy of one of Johanson's research proposals. Whoever buys this (at $200.00) will not just learn about evolution and archaeology, but will hold genuine primary sources about one of these fields' biggest discoveries.

Ah, the things I run across in our little bookshop! Time to go all postmodern and ponder the nature of the bookstore, aided by an Affordable and Interesting play:

This incredibly sweet story, about the correspondence between a struggling writer and the staff at a London bookshop, moved Doug so powerfully that he lent all the staff here at the shop the movie version, way back when I started working here. And before this was a movie (with Anne Bancroft, Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins, no less!), it was a book and a stage play -- it's the play we're selling, for $7.50. The story is all about, not just the book trade, but the era in which all those letters were written -- 1949 to 1969. So (because I have to talk about gifts so often that it becomes tiresome), this wouldn't just make a good gift for book lovers, but for those who feel nostalgia for the era that stretched from Churchill's war to the Beatles' invasion. (Those bookending events were chosen by the dust jacket, not by me.)

And now that I've belabored the gift thing, I can say: happy holidays, gentle readers! At risk of being stereotypical, I must urge you to curl up out of the snow with some cocoa and a good book. That's certainly what I'll be doing in my free time this week!

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