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Journal Chacham's Journal: What is the oldest book that you own? Seen? Thoughts? 13

What is the oldest book that you own? I don't mean text-wise, because I have texts that are thousands of years old. On another note, what is the oldest book that you have seen?

The oldest that I own would be Funk&Wagnalls Desk Standard Dictionary printed in 1922. Although a book I just picked up today, "Character and the Unconscious" comes in a close second at 1923.

As for originals that I have seen, would be 17th century commentaries. Although I don't remember specifically, I think I did see some from the 16th century as well. The books back then were written on much better paper (actually cloth) and still last. It is 19th century books that have the worst paper. Though, for margins and typesetting, 1920's and 30's take the cake. Wide margins, and clear fonts.

What are your thoughts?

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What is the oldest book that you own? Seen? Thoughts?

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  • that by Jung?

    I own an edition of a medeival geneology published by somebody in Columbia around 1920, and a Hebrew literary magazine from 1917ish Russia.

    I've seen a Gutenberg Bible and I think a Dead Sea scroll at the Huntington museum. I'm pretty sure the oldest books I'd seen unrestricted were 17th or 18th century though. ::wistfully:: years have passed and I've forgotten.

    there was a time when I found old books exciting. I don't as much anymore. I'm still most likely to read things written between about 1950 and 1975 - people just wrote better back than.

    • that by Jung?

      Nope, it's by Van der Hoop. On Jung's theory though. According to Gifts Differing, Van der Hoop is the only one who "got it".
  • I have a cookbook that was published in 1908, I think. (I'm too lazy to go downstairs and get it.) It was given to me as a present by my girlfriend's brother; he found it in a used book store. It's in really good shape, but smells old and musty. I love it.

    It's pretty funny, too. They had some very different ideas about nutrition 100 years ago, and the language of the book would be considered, by some, to be absurdly sexist today. Lots of talk about what your husband expects from his young wife when he comes home from a hard day at work, that kind of thing.

    As for the oldest I've seen, I want to say that I have personally laid eyes on a Gutenberg Bible, although I can't remember where or when. Apart from that item, I guess I'd have to say the documents in the National Archives. Though not techically books, they're pretty historic. The original copy of the Declaration of Independence and such.
  • The oldest book I have here seems to be The Myths of Greece and Rome by H.A. Guerber, 1948. I think some of the textbooks we used in high school were honestly older than that.

    A friend has a first edition Poe, but the oldest was the first edition Newton when I saw Edward Tufte.
  • 1901, no freakin idea where it is.
  • My great aunt and uncle have an germantown, PA bible from 1743. linkage: n

    that page has a picture of the first page of the bible. It's in german, so I've never read it, but it is amazing to see a book that old.
  • Originally bequeathed to my grandfather on my dad's side. Not sure on the dates, but my grandfather was born in 1911, so early 20th-century is my guess.

    Other old books in our house include a large, illustrated volume of `Gulliver's Travels`, `Tales of The Arabian Nights`, a book of greek mythology (illustrated, probably late 19th century judging by the art), and an English translation of `Monkey` by Wu Che'eng (from which the Chinese TV show of the same name was adapted!)

    Then there are all the books my dad acquired when he was younger. A lot of Le Carre books, several old editions of Asimov's stuff too. Most was second-hand stuff, so I've no idea on the age of some of them.

    I didn't own any books of my own until I was in my teens. We had a lending library nearby, though, so I used to borrow lots of books from there. Tintin, Asterix & Obelix, Babar as a little'un, followed by Doctor Who mainly when I was old enough to read on my own. First books I bought with my own money would be Harry Harrison's `Stainless Steel Rat` books and Frank Herbert's `Dune` books.

    Nowadays, my main passions are Graphic Novels, and the history of comics (deprived in my youth, y'see!) plus the odd art and humour book.

    My prized possessions, in no particular order :

    `The Ballad of Halo Jones`
    `Batman: Digital Justice`
    `Kingdom Come`
    `Batman: The Killing Joke`
    `Batman: The Dark Knight Returns`
    `Sluggy Freelance` (various)
    `Kevin & Kell` (various)
    `The Adventures of Lilly Wong` (various)
    `Tank Girl`

    plus coffee-table books of works by Giger, Vallejo and Soriyama.
  • When I studied abroad in London I purchased a 1st edition book of poetry by William Wordsworth. Printed: 1845.

    Oldest books I have seen are two editions of the Gutenberg Bible (1454 and 1455) and the oldest "text" I've seen is the Magna Carta (1215).
  • i have several books by henry shute from about 1901 to 1905, including a signed copy of a real diary of a real boy. i've seen some pretty old illuminated manuscripts in castles, museums, and churches around germany. i want to say that some of them dated back to the 15th century, but i'm not sure. i am pretty sure i've seen parchments/scrolls from that time period.
  • I had a school book that I bought at the Cobalt Highway Bookstore [] -- amazing place -- that was published in 1867. I haven't got it any more.

    The oldest I have now is Vols. 3 and 4 of The Great Events by Famous Historians, published in 1901. Picked 'em up for $5 from a street vendor. Still haven't read 'em...bad me.

  • an early 1800's La Bruyere. Not surprisingly, I don't know just how old since books in those days didn't always bother with such niceties as copyright pages. An expert on old books estimated its pub date as somewhere in the 1830s based on stuff in the colophon and the bookmaking techniques used.
    Since I bought it at a yard sale in Maine for around twenty bucks, I'm pretty happy with it. It grounds me as to what modern "well made" books are imitating, since its leather, ridged spine and marbled papers served pragmatic purposes (durability, space for stitching, resistant to visible stains) instead of being some sort of affectation.

    Oldest seen? I'ld say that something or other at the Morgan or another museum would qualify, though without doubt, standing before stuff like the Declaration of Independance in the National Archives makes all the older stuff just seem, well, cute.
    Oldest personally handled? Various mediaeval manuscript pages. Pretty.

    • I don't know just how old since books in those days didn't always bother with such niceties as copyright pages.

      That's strange. Alsmost every book I have seen has a date on it, at least in the language of the country where it was published.

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