Book Nostalgia and multiple copies…

My question today, in my never-ending project to get my personal library down to manageable proportions is …

When you have multiple copies of books, how do you decide which ones to keep? Dogeared childhood copies vs shiny new ones…

Somewhere in the house, I have around three and a half sets of the Narnia books.  My dogeared and play-library adorned childhood copies; a cheap set of new paperbacks I bought for Juliet (who was showing the possibilities of becoming a book-wrecker, but now I’m not so sure); my posh Folio set; and assorted other editions we’ve been given over the years. Obviously the Folio set stays, but should I get rid of the rest?  Or keep one set – if so which one?  The Pauline Baynes covers on my childhood set are lovely, but they are falling to pieces; the modern set have boring covers. Another dilemma.

I have similar problems for Ballet Shoes, The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, and countless others. I own a proper hardback edition, Folio or otherwise, plus one or more reading copies, mostly Puffin paperbacks, including my childhood ones.

I can’t sell my dog-eared childhood copies – they’re in no state to pass on. Many of the pictures have been coloured in. Yes, I was a book-wrecker as a child – I think I changed to the opposite persuasion once I had a decent job and could afford to buy books rather than go to the library. The upshot of this is that I’d have to recycle the oldest copies, which are mostly well-tanned too by now too, tend to have small type and are not easy to read in their state of gentle decay.

I hope all these introspective posts about dealing with the problem of having too many books aren’t boring you all to sleep, but I am genuinely interested in your experiences.

  • Can you bear to get rid of your dogeared childhood editions when you have shiny new ones available?
  • Does the argument about having reading copies so that posh ones can be preserved hold any water?
  • Why were the old Puffin covers so lovely compared with today’s versions?
  • Would a pictorial record be enough to preserve the memories for posterity?
Do let me know your thoughts …

15 thoughts on “Book Nostalgia and multiple copies…

  1. We were political refugees when I was a child and I was allowed to take 2 books with me (as not to arouse suspicion of the border guards). I was so sad, I think I cried all the way to the border. The two books I was allowed to take are still there, in my parent’s house, falling apart. I can’t bear to throw them out and, eventually, they’ll come over the ocean to live in my house. I can’t remember all the other 80+ books I had, but I miss them all.

    In short, keep your dog-eared childhood editions! Or at least the ones you remember loving the most. It’s the physical smell, the touch of those pages that will probably bring memories flooding back. I would probably get rid of the modern ones and settle for having the folio editions and your childhood editions. :)

    • Kinga – thank you! I couldn’t imagine having to choose just two books, and I would treasure them for life too.

  2. The folio society books don’t really count as reading copies, and are I think a sort of book apart. Your own childhood copies are probably the ones to keep especially if you’ve held on to them this long. The others – well I guess they really belong to you children who will either keep or dispose of them.

    Most of my childhood books went when I wasn’t looking but I feel okay about it probably because much as I loved them they were mostly chosen for me.

    I’m probably unusual amongst a lot of book bloggers though in that I hate having duplicate copies (space is to tight and it seems so wasteful) so I can be quite ruthless in getting rid of books

    • I am learning to be ruthless Hayley – Good for you! The Folio editions are almost too nice to read, and too big to handle in bed, so you’re right, they are a collection rather than reading copies.

      The more I think and talk about it, the less attached I’m getting to those aged Puffins, and frankly, with the exception of Ballet Shoes, The Secret Garden and possibly the Railway Children, I can’t see my daughter wanting to read them, so I think I’m being won around on parting with them – after scanning in those wonderful old covers, and a representative sample of the illustrations, that is…

      Thanks for your help.

    • Ali – I have that box of postcards too, bought with the aim of doing exactly that but stuck in one of the piles somewhere! I don’t have a mount cutter, but do have photo corners – you’re right, I should do it instead with my old dog-eared children’s classic covers … The Secret Garden has a beautiful Shirley Hughes painting which is beautiful.

  3. I would say keep the Folio editions and maybe one other copy that can be read and get rid of the rest. If your childhood editions are no longer in a state to be read and enjoyed, as much as they are a nice memento, it seems like their true value has expired. I don’t think you’d really miss having them around…

    Also, I will say that I have Folio editions of Jane Austen’s works and I use those as my reading copy! I appreciate well-made, pretty books, but it seems a shame to leave them on the shelf and never read them. So if I were in your position I would probably just keep the Folio ones as I’d certainly read them, but of course you might feel differently.

    • The Folio stay – heirlooms eventually perhaps – and I do have all the slipcases to keep them pristine and dustfree in between times – I must admit, that when I do read, rather than look at admire, a Folio edition, I find that the reading experience is heightened by the poshness of the book itself. I don’t mean that in any snobbish way, rather a sybaritic or even hedonist feeling!

  4. Nah, I can’t give up my childhood books for anything – newer editions or not. Specially as most of my books were Enid Blyton’s and the new editions have been re-edited, such that shillings have been replaced with pounds etc.

    I’d rather keep both than keep only the new ones…. just my 2 cents worth…

    • Re-editing is not good unless it’s the author doing it. If I were aware of any of that, I’d definitely keep the older one – thanks for reminding me. Amazingly, I don’t have any Blyton though – I got all of hers from the library.

  5. I could never get rid of my original copies of Harry Potter, for example, nor any of my other beloved childhood books. These are books that have come a long way with me, even if that way has left them rumpled, hideous and weirdly food-stained.

    As for fancy books… read ’em! Books are meant to be read and enjoyed. Sure, you don’t have to needlessly trash a lovely book, but treating it with kid gloves means you’ll never fully enjoy it.

    • My HPs have been a bit wrecked by my daughter, but I’m not worried – the earlier ones aren’t first editions, the later ones are, but were such large editions, they won’t be worth that much, so I can just about cope with that.

      You’re right, I do think I will have to enjoy my posher editions – as I said to Steph above, there is an additional pleasure to be got out of doing so!

  6. I still have a lot of my childhood books in varying degrees of collapse but the only duplicate copies I have are the newer ones that I bought for the children because mine couldn’t cope with the handling.
    The newer copies will either go with the kids when they move out (senior daughter has already taken some of her favourites down to London with her) or will stay in a bookcase for the grandchildren dv. It’s a bit early to know if the twins will be readers but Amelia who is nearly three always makes a beeline for the shelves of picture books when she comes to stay so hopefully she has already got the bug!
    I suspect that you have already made your decision, but for what it is worth, I would have said keep your childhood copies as I while you can replace the physical book, a well loved copy means so much more than something pristine.

  7. I haven’t bothered to acquire any beautiful books (e.g. Folio) and my parents NEVER read their Folio books. So I am all for reading copies. You can’t throw a Folio in your handbag to read on the bus!

    Childhood copies – like Kinga says, keep the ones that you remember reading, the ones that fill you with nostalgia.

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