Tonight's question: Why would you want a pristine, mint copy of 1964's The Boys' Life Book of Outer Space Stories on your bookshelf when, instead, you could have the coolest copy possible — an ex-school-library book that has been read again and again, jostled around in countless backpacks, scuffed and smudged by years of readers, and rebound with black tape, upon which the title and shelving information have been written in white down the spine. This is a book that has been enjoyed!
They don't make used books quite like these any more. A book like this, while still 100 percent readable, has a history and charm that cannot be replicated. It belonged to a certain place and generation (maybe a couple generations). How it was handled and marked and maintained are part of what make it a cultural artifact that transcends even its value as a book.
A book with a Monkey Astronaut on the cover, no less!
Here's a visual deep dive into the wonders of Outer Space Stories. The cover, in addition to the black tape along the spine, has been reinforced at the corners. Based on what we can still see, the title is now The Boys' Life Book O Uter Space Stories.1
The inside front cover has — and this is strange for a book with space themes — an endpapers illustration featuring sports figures that brands it as part of the Boys' Life Library. There's also a stamp for the book's former longtime home, Valley View Elementary School in the York Suburban School District.2
At the back of the volume is the slip of paper upon which the due dates were stamped. It shows a good amount of activity for Outer Space Stories between 1969 and 1981, with the last date being Sept. 28, 1981.
Here's the inside back cover, which still has the Valley View circulation-card pocket affixed, complete with circulation card inside.
And here's the front of the circulation card, forever showing that the book's readers included Michael, Nicky and others with various levels of penmanship.
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- Pennsylvania College's old library copy of "Flatland"
- Old-style Ruth Manning-Sanders library book borrower's card
- Today's work of art: Page from an old library book
1. This was Sarah's first observation upon seeing the book.
2. Valley View was previously mentioned in an August 2012 post. Here's some history of the York County school, from its website:
"Valley View Elementary School was built in 1948 and operated as a Kindergarten through Grade Six school until 1983. At that time it was closed due to a drop in district enrollment. Valley View was reopened from 1989-2010 as an Early Childhood Center (grades K-T-1). The building closed for renovations during the 2010-2011 school year and reopened as a K-1-2 building for the 2011-2012 school year."