Thursday, June 22, 2017

Don't give me the evil eye for my book-acquisition addiction

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying — really trying — to prune more books from my new bedroom to make room for everything. Many things have departed. More things still need to go.

I'm using the blog to help with The Lessening, the theory being that once I've documented and published a post about a cool book cover or inscription or bookplate or tucked-away-inside item, then I'm free to re-release the book into the wild. My job as historian is done, at least in the digital sense.

But my plan failed miserably in one very recent instance. Pruning one book led directly to the purchase of another. That kind of math isn't going to lead to fewer books in the inventory.

Here's what happened: Writing about the groovy old bookplate inside A Diary from Dixie allowed me send Diary out of the house.

Minus one book.

But, in writing about the bookplate, I discovered that its owner, Edward S. Gifford Jr., had published a book titled The Evil Eye: Studies in the Folklore of Vision in 1958. And if you know anything about me by now, you know I had to have that book.

Plus one book.

(The Price is Right fail horn.)

I found a cheap copy online and, voilĂ , The Evil Eye is now in my collection of folklore titles, alongside the likes of Wonder Tales from the China Seas, Korean Lore, Old Schuylkill Tales and The Land of Haunted Castles.

Here's an excerpt from the dust jacket of The Evil Eye:
"For Dr. Gifford, writing is a late evening occupation; his days are fully occupied in his office and in discharging his duties as Chief Ophthalmologist to the Pennsylvania Hospital ... Fascinated by the folklore of his science, Dr. Gifford has made an exhaustive study of it. ... The grist for Dr. Gifford's mill is the whole of man's history, from the earliest written records down to the latest researches of modern psychiatrists. The author is an ophthalmologist as well as a balanced and enlightened raconteur. The result is this amusing and erudite treat, a book that will strongly appeal to all who relish the unusual."
The 216-page book comes with an exhaustive 12-page bibliography. The interior illustrations are by Virginia Mason Gifford, Edward's wife, and the book is dedicated to her. The cover was designed by Gilbert Etheredge, and, yes, I think the drawing looks a little bit like E.T.

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