Sunday, April 17, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: A new old book!

Another Monday, Another Mailbox!! This is a feature where we all share with each other the yummy books that showed up at our doors! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!!

Mailbox Monday was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of April Mailbox Monday will be hosted by Passages to the Past. Head on over to add your blog to the linky link and share your newest acquisitions with other book lovers.

This week I received one book -- a particular treat. I love old books. I'm not a collector by any means. At my house we're too sloppy and careless to try to treat things as investments. But there is nevertheless something a little thrilling about opening a package and getting an invoice from "Rothwell and Dunworth LTD- Antiquarian Booksellers." I hadn't realized I'd ordered an antique.

Here it is:   

Medieval Towns- Bruges

And opening it up I saw:
Granted, I'm not sure exactly what that says. But it's somebody's name, somewhere in England, and the book was acquired in 1904. Finally,

The Story of Bruges by Ernest Gilliat-Smith, 1903.

This book thrills me. The corners are bent. The pages are yellowed with brown splotches. The paper is thick and unevenly cut. It's old but it's completely intact. The fold out maps and geneological tables are not torn. And best of all, the book is exactly what I was looking for in a history of Bruges. In fact, it was even better than I'd hoped.

As a fan of Galbert of Bruges's The Murder of Charles the Good, I have been pretty well indoctrinated to his interpretation of the assassination. It almost goes without saying that when a pious count is murdered at the altar during Lent by a small group of his own vassals, those vassals are in the wrong. And although there are explanations for why those men did what they did, the bias is nevertheless against them. I expected this book to tell me more of the same. The men who murdered Charles were vile and deserved their eventual fate.

However, this book is a larger history of Bruges and puts Charles's assassination into a broader historical context. Charles is not without fault and the villains are portrayed very differently. It is fascinating to be reminded that there are always two sides to every story.

As a history book, the writing style is naturally very different from modern-day books. I tried to imagine whether this would be considered academic or popular. (The author uses the appropriate primary sources for his research, but the book is very sparsely footnoted and the author inserts quotes without attribution.) So my main question is, is it reliable? How would today's historians refute the arguments put forth by Gilliat-Smith?

I tried to discover the identity of the author. Internet searches revealed only a couple other history books in the same vein, but no clue as to his credentials. Does anybody out there know?

In the end, I'm not qualified to judge its relative historical accuracy. I'm just pleased to have discovered this beautiful old, old book that is such a delight to read. The facts line up more or less with those in Galbert's work (Galbert was one of the primary sources), the difference lies in the interpretation of those facts. I'll leave the tricky business of interpretation to historians.


  1. I love old books too especially classics. They just have a whole different feel about them than books that come out today.

  2. Oh, how wonderful! I haven't heard of the book, but that's almost beside the point, isn't it?


  3. What an incredible find! Just the page with the inscription makes my heart skip a beat... that's history in your hands. Absolutely beautiful.

  4. Wow! What a great find! Old books are awesome! The feel of the pages, the strength and density of the binding ... I just love them! :)

  5. Oooooo! I love old books... just something about them.

  6. I love finding old books like that! I have a lot of girl's boarding school stories from about that time and I love looking at the inscription at the front and imagining who it belonged to.

  7. Wow, that is a fabulous book! I can see why you're thrilled with it!

  8. What a great find - I hope you can find out more about it!

  9. Very cool! I love old books, too, and I always gravitate toward that table at my library's sales. You never know what kind of gem you might find! Thanks for stopping by :)

  10. What a stunning find! I love it -- everything about it, from the appearance, to the inscription at the beginning, is so appealing and alluring! Gorgeous!

    My wife and I have begun trying to find first editions of a few obscure authors we like -- it's a wonderful treat to hold an old book in one's hands!

  11. That's awesome! What a great addition to your shelves.

  12. That book is really great, enjoy it!

    Come by and see mine and my giveaways.

  13. That book is so cool! Doesn't it make you wonder who held that book in 1904? It's really beautiful!