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Do You Throw Books Away?

October 6, 2012

Thoughts From The Corner

Our guest blogger, Professor Serendip, continues in this post to highlight books that will soon disappear from library shelves.  As one giving private English tuition I can occasionally use passages from these books in my lessons but when there is a shortage of library shelf space it is the likes of Austen, Dickens and the Brontes that will take precedence on those shelves. Books are a thing of beauty, a piece of art, why must one disappear in the skip/dumpster?


Excerpts from

Books that have been unnecessarily culled by libraries

Books that have been serendipitously encountered

Books that need to be saved for browsers


Herbert Plutschow, A Reader in the Edo Period Travel

(Globe Oriental, Folkstone, 2006)

My copy was obtained from ‘Postscript’ of Newton Abbot, England.

For England there are a handful of accounts by travellers. We recall such names as Defoe, Fiennes and Corbett. Compared with the realism of the Edo period writers, the English accounts are relatively sanitized.

The Edo period ranges from 1600 – 1868. The travellers in Plutschow’s gathering are very varied. Some are just tourists or pilgrims but others are in the nature of inspectors. Their texts range from being picaresque reports about sordid inns to being detailed topography. The weather in general was filthy!

The richness of detail about landscapes and places supplied by these travellers is plentifully paralleled by the artworks of such near contemporary artists as Hiroshige (1795 – 1858) and Eisen (1790 – 1848).

Embedded in the mentions of jurisdictions are occasional folk tales and legends as well as verses – a good potential quarry for anthropologists.

Here is a minor vignette from the journal of a Tachibana Nankei (1752 – 1805)

“Last year, when a peasant tilled his field, two clay puppets came to the surface. Thinking that his children may use them as toys, he took them home and displayed them on the shelf. When the peasant happened to be away from home, these puppets began to dance all by themselves. The children saw this and told their father after he came back home, telling him that they wanted the puppets. The peasant was greatly surprised and watched them carefully. He realised that the puppets at times moved on their own. He was afraid that these might be puppets belonging to the Christians from a long time ago, and immediately buried them again in the field where he had originally found them. He wondered whether badgers or foxes had bewitched them or whether they were old Christian objects. All the people asked themselves such questions and all were afraid.” (p.87)

"private tuition"

Marionettes from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, New York, USA production of “Cinderella Samba” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many ways of looking at this tale. Some might see it as a minor facet of folklore but others who recall semi-Gothic stories about dolls, automata, ventriloquists’ dummies and the like can creepily come to life or movement. Film makers have frequently exploited the dramatic potential of inanimate figures acting as though alive. Perhaps some psychologists will have views on this.

"one to one lessons"

Dumping books in the skip/dumpster is happening daily in libraries in the UK. This English tutor, however, will continue to scour little known (and at risk) books for useful passages to use in one to one lessons. Long may the little-used book remain on the shelf!

From → Books

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