Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Quirky Memories

I once sold all the words of Shakespeare to a man named O.

Doesn't that sound like a great opening line for a novel? It's true too. I really did, but I'd completely forgotten about it till this weekend. I was talking to my husband about old books and suddenly remembered... back in Africa I bought this set of the entire works of Shakespeare at a second hand store. Three huge volumes over a hundred years old - Comedies, Tragedies and Poetry. The pages were yellowed with age, but they had the most beautiful engraved plate illustrations within their crumbling covers.

I always meant to get them rebound and restored, but it just never happened. When I decided to move to Scotland I had to downsize a lot. I sold a lot of my books. Well... all except the Shakespeare! None of the book dealers wanted them because they were damaged and the pages 'foxed' (those yellow age spots).

I put an advert in the paper and only one person phoned. He was very keen to see them. So keen he gave me his phone number and details. He said his name was... "O."

I asked, "How do you spell that?"
He said, "with an o..." and laughed.

He was a businessman from China. He came over to look at my books with his wife. She spoke no English, but he spoke fairly good English. He told me that he adored English literature, especially Shakespeare. He picked up those volumes of Shakespeare with reverence and awe. He didn't see investment value or damage, like those book dealers - just like me, he saw aged beauty and wonderful words.

...and he was wealthy enough to be able to promise they would be restored and leather bound once again. So, some of the greatest words in the English language went to live with a man whose name in English is only a vowel....

How quirky is that? ;-)


Amel said...

Now THAT is TOTALLY quirky indeed!!! :-D

Unknown said...

Love it! My brain went all sorts of places...

Lovely story, too. So nice that your volumes found a home with someone who'd love them well. :o)

RA said...

Love it! :)

Michelle said...

Thank you friends :-))

He was such a nice man too. Real bubbly personality and clearly a real book lover. I always felt good the books went to live with him.

రామ ShastriX said...

Quirki-licious :-)

It's sad to let go of old books; i have lugged mine all over India.

I remember finding John Gunther's Inside South America at a roadside second-hand bookstore in Chennai.

When i asked the seller how much it cost, he looked at me for a long time and said, "Three rupees" (about 10 cents those days)!

Captcha: deness

Blur Ting said...

I'm glad your treasures have found a good owner. I am pretty sure his surname is "Oh". It's a Chinese family name.

Michelle said...

As wonderful as a new book is, there's nothing quite like the thrill offinding an old treasure... and buying it extra cheap! ;-)

I still miss some of the books I had to leave. :-(

Hi Ting :-)

Ahhh... or Oh? LOL Given what you told me, I suspect he told me it was just "O" because it was more funny that way. He was a very bubbly man and came across as the type to enjoy a good joke or tease. :-)