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Saturday essay: Treasure books

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 7:34 p.m.

Old books are a treasure, of course. And it's not merely for their subject matter.

There's nothing quite like an old book to gain a snapshot of the linguistics of the day; many words long ago common and well understood today are archaic and, in some cases, simply baffling, if not comical.

But it's not subject matter and linguistics alone that make old books the rare treat they are. Oftentimes it's what people have tucked into them.

Such was the case recently when out of a 1902 edition of “The Library of Historic Characters and Famous Events of All Nations and All Ages” (there's a mouthful, eh?) fell from between pages 138 and 139 a single page from the March 25, 1907, “Farm and Fireside Magazine and Feature Section.”

And it looked as if it had not been removed since.

There are brief essays on “Men worth while in history” — think Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne — on page 21 while page 22 is devoted to “The young people” with features on German Easter trees and “the annual Easter festival on the White House lawn” when Teddy Roosevelt was president.

Other books have coughed up assorted family treasures, too, including pressed leaves from various trees, myriad states and countries.

And a most prized possession was pasted into the inside cover of a collection of the works of Edgar Allan Poe — a very rare photograph, likely from the late 19th century, of the paternal grandparents' home known simply as “Warwood.”

Perhaps someday my grandchildren, yet born, will find a few treasures that their grandpa left behind in his library. Hint: There are more than a few.

— Colin McNickle

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