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Dead Man’s Books

Dead Man’s Books


We get to know a lot of people after it’s too late to meet them.  Their books tell me who they were.  Go into a stranger’s house and look at their books, and you’ll come as close as possible to reading their mind. The other day, I got to meet Warren through the books his widow brought me.

She came in with her daughter and granddaughter, a little uncomfortable with her situation and unsure about what she was doing. With her white gloves and purse, she reminded me of my grandmother.  Her daughter guided her to a chair and then the daughter and I went through the books.

Warren loved books, particularly books about books. I know he loved them because he cared for them so well, fashioning custom covers for them from book-themed wrapping paper. He took care to leave information in his books: Where this one came from, what bindery re-bound that one.  He had a lot of copies of “The Colophon,” a richly produced hardbound periodical from the Thirties that cost more per issue than a lot of people then made in a day.

I asked the daughter what she wanted for the books. She didn’t know. So I made an offer and she took it. I wrote a check to the widow. She seemed happy that someone appreciated the books.

When I got the books home and did some more research, I concluded that the books were worth more than I paid for them. So I wrote another check – two, actually. I had made the first one out to Warren.  What was I thinking?

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