Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Merriest Christmas to You and Yours!

A gift from G. K. Chesterton for Christmas:

A Child of the Snows
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas at the Koenigs

Conversation while hanging the Christmas tree lights:

Me: Daniel, get the shepherd from the Nativity set away from Kilala!

My son Daniel: Hey, cat, you're herding him! If you take him away from his flock, he'll have a sheepless night!

Richard (Dad): He'll be sheep-deprived.

My son Michael: He's a mutton for punishment.

It took a while to recover from the fit of giggles.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Nook Directories

Paula Coleman has a useful site for book lovers called "Book Nook Directories." There you'll find listings for booksellers throughout the Carolinas and Georgia, both web-only and brick-and-mortar.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Cold Coming We Had of It

The Journey of the Magi

T. S. Eliot

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

A Lovely Prospect

My fellow Mary Louis Academy alumna, Brenda Becker, photographed Prospect Park in the course of a year and created this beautiful calendar for 2009:

I lived in Queens, New York, from the time I was born until I was 26. I regret now that I never visited that park. It is an oversight I plan to rectify on my next trip back. I'm grateful to Brenda for showing me what I missed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Death Makes the Holiday

The funniest entry in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is Hogfather, where Death takes over for the Discworld version of Santa Claus when he goes missing. Death is sort of like Spock: he tries to get humans, and comes close, but always misses the subtleties. Here he's wishing his granddaughter (!), Susan (!!!), a "Happy Hogswatch":

Getting into the Spirit of Things with Potter Puppet Pals

It's nearly Christmas! For your jollification, we proudly present the creator of Potter Puppet Pals and his Christmas video (WARNING: Some innuendo involved):

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Some pretty pictures for your enjoyment. We're counting our considerable blessings here at Old Lighthouse Books, and we wish you all the best for the rest of this year and the next!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Way of the Book

There's a new book metasearch site on the Web: ViaLibri, Resources for Bibliophiles.

You have the option of searching all bookselling sites, or just the ones you check off, and away you go. One of the nicer features is the ability to weed out unwanted listings. You know what I mean -- you're looking for an original copy of, say, John Leland's Divine Authority of the Old and New Testament Asserted, and a search brings up a slew of print-on-demand listings. Well, now you can find what you're really looking for without having to puzzle out the correct combination of keywords. Neato!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Auction on eBay

It's finally here! My new auctions are listed on eBay and ready for bidding. Unfortunately for some, the Old Theology Quarterly #25 has sold already through "Buy It Now." The Millennial Dawn envelope and the Golden Age magazines are still in play, though.

I've included some postcards from Oberammergau, vintage 1922. One is signed by one of the actors. There's a mix of black and white and color cards, all in very good condition.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where There's Smoke ...

You've won that book you've been searching for on eBay. You shiver in anticipation when the package finally arrives. Ripping it open, you can see the book is everything you hoped it would be, except ... What's that smell?

You employ the sniff test, and discover that the poor volume has been subjected to the smoke of a thousand cigarettes. Every molecule of paper has bound with one of Chesterfield's™.

What to do? You don't want to return the book, but you can't abide handling something that smells like an ashtray.

There are different solutions to this problem, but one of the easiest and least expensive involves the following materials:

  • A large box of baking soda
  • A "refrigerator box" of same
  • Two rectangular plastic storage containers into which the book(s) will fit without touching the sides, one smaller than the other
  • A lid to fit the larger box -- one that will provide an airtight seal.
  • Time

1. Open the large box of baking soda, and spread some in the bottom of the larger container; about a 1/2 inch to an inch (2.5 to 4 cm) deep will do.

2. Place the smaller container on top of the baking soda.

3. Place the book(s) inside the smaller container.

4. If there is room, you may place a refrigerator box of baking soda in with the books (these boxes have a peel-away piece of cardboard that reveals a thin fabric; it allows the baking soda to absorb odors without spilling into the box).

5. Place the lid on the larger box and seal tightly.

6. Wait 4 to 6 weeks; check the odor of the book(s) periodically and replace the baking soda as needed.

This method's chief advantage is its cost-effectiveness. While it may not remove all the offensive odors, it will certainly mitigate them. Airing the book on your own smoke-free shelves after this treatment will also help.

Friday, October 3, 2008

L-Space and Its Subsets

Terry Pratchett has done the hard calculations and given us his theory of "L-Space", that phenomenon known to all frequenters of libraries and used bookstores:

Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.

Read more over at

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Mysterious Passion

Louis M. Boxer reflects on the beauty of book collecting:

The passion for collecting books, like good taste, is something you are either
born with and/or fortuitously cultivate with great loving tenderness. It must be
nourished with time, or it will atrophy and wither away, which one would
consider a serious crime just about anywhere! Collecting my mystery books for
the sole expectation of making an exponential return on your investments is
extremely risky and speculative. More importantly, it unabashedly eviscerates
and brutalizes the beauty of collecting mystery books. Collecting books is
something that should be pursued for one's pleasure and personal satisfaction
above all else. It doesn't require a lot of money but merely an interest to
read, to learn and to share in others' lives. Ultimately you find yourself
becoming more preoccupied with the pursuit and the pursuit and the acquisition of the printed word at the expense of food, sleep or even sex! If this describes you, then you have taken the first step to admitting that you are a bona fide bibliophile. You cannot escape your fate nor can you buy, steal, or fake this passion.


Hat tip to Charles Benoit for the link.

Mystery, Romance, Exotic Adventure

Charles Benoit is an award-winning mystery writer whose books give you a rollicking good ride through foreign climes while his protagonists pursue both love and a MacGuffin. I loved his first novel, Relative Danger, and was hooked.

I quickly snapped up his next two: Out of Order and Noble Lies.

His sense of humor and well-drawn characters drive the plots well through various improbable scenarios. There are insights into the cultures of the various locales featured in the books which are obviously the fruit of his own experiences.

He seems like an interesting fellow in his non-authorial life: He hosts a jazz radio program (swing music -- I knew I liked the man!), likes martinis (the real kind, none of this fruity drink with "-tini stuck at the end" stuff), and is as well-traveled as his hapless heroes.
So if you like your books as light and dry as one of Benoit's martinis, give them a try.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New York, New York

The day the planes hit, I was trying to tune into a radio interview with Patrick Madrid. One of the stations had interrupted programming with a news bulletin; all I had to hear was "the president looked grave" to know that something bad had happened.

My younger kids were watching "Barney" or something. I shooed them out of the room and turned to a news channel to the sight of smoke coming out of both of the towers. They were breaking in with news about the Pentagon, and something about a plane crash in Pennsylvania. I switched back to kiddie shows and ran upstairs to my computer ...

I began emailing friends back in New York. I was born and raised in Queens, and I still have many friends and family who live and work there. One friend said he could see the smoke when he was crossing one of the bridges to his workplace. Shortly after that I got a message: "They're gone."

What do you mean "GONE"?

I tuned in to a visual report to see empty, smoking air where the towers had been. Unfathomable. I started crying, nearly screaming.

As the news reports came in, jumbled and confused, I was proud of my city. I saw New Yorkers mobilizing, getting ready to deal with the wounded that would flood the hospitals.

They didn't come.

In the days that followed, the people of this country stepped up and stepped in to bind the wounds. The firefighters collected fistfuls of $20 bills in boots on street corners here in Raleigh and in Durham to send to New York. Workers poured in from across the United States to help with search efforts. More food, clothing, and money than could be used were donated. The generosity of the American people can be nearly overwhelming.

But pain continued weeks after the attacks, with churches conducting funeral after funeral after funeral, day after day after day.

Remember, and say a prayer.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

I'd Rather Poke Hot Needles In My Eyes

Moving Day. More accurately, Mom K.'s moving day. Moving WEEK.

On the bright side, it's a nice new apartment in a retirement community, where she'll always have someone around to make sure she's safe. On the not-so-bright side we're going through the "which box was the soap in?" phase.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to Normal

At last we have returned to non-crisis mode. I'm still recovering bits and pieces of the last two years from the old hard drive, but the new computer is running fine so far and there haven't been any new setbacks.

We just spent a lovely Labor Day weekend in the lower Shenandoah Valley, wandering through antique stores and flea markets, and hitting a kid-friendly attraction or two as a sop to my boys. They don't much like me making them slog through the old furniture and glassware. I can't imagine why.

It wasn't very productive in terms of book finds, though I did get a $4 copy of Samuel Eliot Morison's History of the American People in one volume to replace the dinky 3-paperback set in my personal library.

It was wonderful to see the mountains again, and to see all the neat Virginia farms nestled among the hills and hollows. We'll have to take another trip there soon.

Oh, and another highlight: We visited Mount Airy, North Carolina, the boyhood home of Andy Griffith, and the inspiration for the fictional town of "Mayberry" on "The Andy Griffith Show."
I got a picture of my boys in front of Floyd's Barber Shop, which I'll post once I develop the film. (Yes, I still use 35mm film).

I'm a big fan of the series, though I haven't joined the "Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club" yet. Each chapter is named after a phrase or episode title from the show. Our local chapter is "The Concrete Jungle," located in Raleigh; others are "Citizen's Arrest!", "Kerosene Cucumbers," "Compelsion Complex," "Ernest T. Bass Window Removal Inc.", etc.

Friday, August 22, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

My bi-annual computer meltdown has just occurred on my desktop/server, so I am going to have to push back the upcoming auction of antiquarian Watchtower items (see here).

I will get it going in early September if I can manage to sort out what needs restoration and what is best left to that big data dump in the sky. My next equipment purchases are a new desktop AND A BACKUP DRIVE, thereby giving me hope of breaking the cycle of crash, burn, lose data.

In the meantime, prayers from those who are so inclined are always welcome! And "I-told-you-sos" from techies are assumed, so y'all don't need to weigh in. I've been telling myself so all day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


*"Idiopathic is an adjective used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause. From Greek ἴδιος, idios (one's own) + παθος, pathos (suffering), it means approximately 'a disease of its own kind.' "

Also, "from the Latin, meaning 'we're idiots, because we don't know what's causing it.'" -- Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House in the TV series "House."

My blogging has been light because my husband has had a recurrence of his deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary emboli (PE) in both lungs. It was a little scary last weekend. He took our son to kendo class on Saturday, and wound up unable to finish his own lessons because he became suddenly short-winded. He could barely speak after walking from the car to the house when they got back.

I took him to the hospital over his mild protests, where they admitted him after looking at his CT scans and finding that he had clots in both lungs. Fortunately, he did not have to stay more than one night.

Rich's DVT/PE is idiopathic (see above). He's not elderly (his first occurrence was 10 years ago at age 39), doesn't travel by plane for hours, isn't pregnant, hasn't had surgery, etc. When he used to make platelet donations they noted that he could donate twice as many as the average person, so maybe that has something to do with it. The "Why" of the situation eludes the doctors.

Things are pretty much back to normal, so work and blogging are back on track. Deo gratias.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Old Lighthouse Books Upcoming Auction Alert

I'm pleased to announce two special auctions which I will be posting to eBay within the next two weeks:

  1. A Millennial Dawn "Missionary Envelope": Zion's Watch Tower of September, 1887, mentions a new campaign to raise awareness of Pastor Russell's teaching as set down in The Plan of the Ages. It involved using envelopes with Bible verses and an ad for Volume I of Millennial Dawn. One of these envelopes and an accompanying letter will be auctioned on eBay. The letter makes mention of a Pilgrim (traveling speaker for the Watch Tower Society) named "Jonson" who was a "converted Jew." This has to be P. S. L. Johnson, who later severed ties with the Watch Tower and began his own group, the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement. As of the writing of this letter, though (March, 1906) , he was still a member of the International Bible Students:

  2. Old Theology Quarterly No. 25: The Only Name; A Criticism of Bishop Foster's New Gospel. This item contains a critique of a Methodist bishop's dissent from Protestant teaching on the salvation of people who never heard the Gospel:

Prices and starting date are TBD.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Book Larnin'

The serious student of the book arts will pay a visit to the website of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The school, founded in 1983, provides courses, lectures, and online information about printing, binding, identification, bibliography, and other essential knowledge about books for the collector and dealer.

If you can't afford the tuition or the time to attend the school, you can take advantage of the reading lists for the various courses. They're an education in themselves.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Now THIS Is Good for Its Age!

We live in exciting times indeed. The Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, is going up on the Internet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Ironic Catholic ...

... has a subtitle that is da bomb! It's from one of my favorite authors:

"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you odd."

-- Flannery O'Connor

Reality Is Overrated

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."

G. K. Chesterton

Across the Pond

My friend Donald runs an bookshop called Clyde Coast Books. He carries a range of academic texts and other literature. I am grateful to him for my newest used book, the British paperback edition of the Discworld Companion.

He's a nice guy, too.

So if you're from the U. K. or just in the market for reasonably priced British books, take a look.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Test of Time

"One should never read the latest books. Instead, wait for a few years and watch most of them disappear into well-deserved oblivion. This eliminates much unnecessary reading." -- Somerset Maugham

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Real Character

William Dalton provides insight into Steven T. Byington, a true eccentric New Englander, over at the Andover Townsman website. He provides some interesting background on one of the odder figures in the world of Watchtower book collecting.

Byington was a New Englander whose main claim to fame among WT collectors is his role as translator of a unique English-language Bible. He himself was a Congregationalist (more on that in the article). His translation was not published during his lifetime, but somehow the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society came across his manuscript. They bought the rights to it because it used the name "Jehovah" extensively throughout the Old Testament.

But even in death Byington had the last word. The terms of sale mandated that his original notes and forward had to be included in any published version. His original spellings and verse notation were kept as well.

More fun facts are to be had at the Townsman. Take a look!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Open Library

Open Library's stated goal is to have "One web page for every book ever published." Not too grandiose, is it? Then again, who'd have thought that Wikipedia would take off the way it did?

The project is in need of contributors who can provide book information, among other things. It promises to be a gold mine of information for collectors of all sorts of books, so head over there and see if you can add to the general store of knowledge.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Discworld Blues

My whole family has been tearing through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I have only one more book left to read (aside from the young adult novels and the Science of Discworld books): Small Gods. I have just finished reading Carpe Jugulum ("Seize the Throat"), wherein vampires take up unwelcome residence in the kingdom of Lancre.

I was introduced to Pratchett's novels by other bloggers, especially on Dale Price's Dyspeptic Mutterings blog (see sidebar). I was uninterested until I read a synopsis of Hogfather, a twisted take on Santa Claus. The concept alone was laugh-out-loud hilarious, and the book didn't disappoint.

You see the Hogfather, Discworld's version of Santa, has gone missing. In order to save Hogswatch (Christmas and New Year's Eve all rolled into one) and human belief in intangible things, someone must take over and deliver the presents. That someone is . . . Death:

(From the DVD version of Hogfather )

Before that, though, I read the two introductory novels, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. They tell the story of Rincewind, a failed wizard, and the Discworld's first-ever tourist, Twoflower.

Those books were recently made into a single TV movie by SkyOne in the U. K. SkyOne wasn't sure when it will be released onto DVD, nor when it will be available in the U. S. The movie stars David Jason, Sean Astin, Tim Curry, and Jeremy Irons:

One of my favorite characters is the Patrician. He's the ruler of the city of Ankh-Morpork, who believes in the concept of "One man, one vote" -- as long as he's the "one man." His character has had some of the most interesting development of any in the series.

But now I've almost run out of Discworld books to read, which is very depressing indeed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What's Your Story?

If you collect books, what do you collect and what started you off? My personal obsession with Watchtower literature began in the 1970s, when a Witness left The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life at my house. It didn't really take off, though, until I came across a copy of The Harp of God by J. F. Rutherford at a library book sale in the early 1980s.

Feel free to share your stories in the combox.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good for Its Age

You've seen it before. It's all over eBay, and you can't read five listings on any of the major book search engines before it jumps out at you.

It's a phrase you learn to drop quickly once you've spent any time in the book business. You start to wince when you hear it; it's like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Prospective sellers come up to you, hope in their eyes, and tender for your consideration a tattered, worn, ghost-of-its-former-self book. They utter the horrible words, and expect to be told that indeed, their decrepit volume is a prize. After all, it was printed in the nineteenth century!

You, on the other hand, know that there are at least a hundred copies to be had of that particular title, at least half of which look as if they'd just dropped off the press yesterday.

Age is not equal to value. Condition + scarcity + demand = value. It's true for books, just as it's true for cheese, fine wines, and furniture. Keep any of these in the wrong conditions, and you have fodder for the fireplace, and maybe vinegar for your salad.

For instance:
The Finished Mystery (1917) is much sought-after by collectors of Watchtower/Jehovah's Witness books. It is the posthumous work of Pastor Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watch Tower Society, and the seventh volume in his Studies in the Scriptures series. Auction prices vary, but an original, intact copy in this binding can retail for over $100 in Fine condition.

This copy has seen better days. The covers are stained, the spine is faded and chipped, the hinges are broken and the super is showing. To boot, the binder made a boo-boo and sewed in a duplicate signature while leaving out the proper one, so that there is a page 417 after page 448.

I'd be lucky to get $25 for this gem.

On the other hand, the copy to the right is in comparatively good shape: You can see a bit of wear along the edges and along the spine, but it's a nice tight copy. This one might go for $75 to $100, depending on the market.
But there are still nicer ones to be had out there, and you wouldn't have to wait too long before one turned up.
When I was in New York in April, I paid a visit to Argosy Books, which has some fine examples of 15th and 16th century books for sale, with beautiful leather bindings and paper that has retained its suppleness and whiteness long after books made with 20th century pulp have crumbled into dust. Even many of these were not priced over a couple of hundred dollars. Why? Demand, for one. Not too many people are interested in theological works in Latin by writers of lesser stature than a Thomas Aquinas.
So when someone says, "It's good for its age," let the buyer beware.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Forgotten Classics

Reader Julie D. has a blog and podcast, Forgotten Classics, wherein she brings attention to authors who are not as well known to the public as, say, J. K. Rowling, but who deserve to be. I was happy to see Rumer Godden mentioned, as well as Terry Pratchett. Take a listen!

Happy 4th!

Happy Independence Day! Have a safe (if not quiet) weekend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

LibraryThing Rocks!

LibraryThing is a free service for storing information about your personal library. It's the best thing to come along for collectors since the death of the card catalog.

You can download generic information about your books by performing an ISBN search in the "Add Books" section, which draws on book information stored by and libraries from around the world. You can add cover pictures from various uploaded user files or from Amazon. There are spaces for Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal System numbers, just in case you're as obsessive as I am about shelving your books.

The tagging feature allows you to categorize your books your own way, an especially handy feature for collectors. You're not limited to the old standbys like "History" and "Fine Arts"; you can group your books by "Red covers" or "Aunt Muzzy's Legacy," if you like.

You'll also find out how (un)common you are. The books listed also have notes attached telling you who else shares your passion for Jane Austen or books on prunes.

And no, they're not paying me to say this. It's just incredibly useful. I recommend it highly.

Top Ten Reasons Why a Used Book Beats an eBook

10. You won’t short out your book if you spill something on it.
9. Pixels don’t have that same well-read feel.
8. If your kids step on your book, it won't cost hundreds to replace (usually).
7. Have you tried reading your laptop on the beach?
6. How about on public transportation?
5. The batteries won’t die in the middle of a chapter.
4. Trading eBooks isn’t as much fun.
3. You don't have to take it out of your carry-on for inspection.
2. Reading in the tub isn't life-threatening.
1. Who collects eBooks?
--Cathy and Rebecca Koenig

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Go Toward the Light ...

Welcome to the Old Lighthouse Books blog, where you'll find tips on book collecting, caring for your collection, and cataloging, as well as book news and general booklore, all while having a bit of fun.

I specialize in Watchtower literature and Catholic books, but my interests are wide-ranging and posts will not be limited to those areas of interest.

Comments are welcome. I hope to provide safe harbor for like-minded collectors. Therefore, I reserve the right to delete any postings which do not fit the tone or the focus of this board.

So drop anchor, come ashore, and share your books stories with us!