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Another Book Bites the Dust

November 4, 2012
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Thoughts From The Corner

Our little chap in the picture above (the ghost of Experienced Tutors past), who spent many hours of his early school life in the ‘naughty boy’s corner’, could never have dreamt that one day he would play play host to a real professor. Today, however, as a private English tutor who manged to jump the hurdles of the education system, he is able to welcome back Professor Serendip.

For the past two or three months, as a guest blogger here,  the Prof. has been highlighting his concern over the culling of books. As one who has had a life time’s involvement with books and libraries he has disturbing evidence of books that have been unnecessarily culled by major libraries in England. In these posts he highlights books that he considers worthy of saving. It is hard to believe that the wonderful book he looks at below will some day (soon?) disappear from our library shelves.

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Excerpts from

Books that have been unnecessarily culled by libraries

Books that have been serendipitously encountered

Books that need to be saved for browsers


The Sagas of Icelanders [With Preface by Jane Smiley]

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Cover via Amazon

The authorship is difficult to present briefly because of the complex earlier publishing history. Ornolfur Thorsson was editor of the World of Sagas series and he was assisted by a team of advisers and translators. It was first published by Penguin in 2000 in the U.S. Penguin U.K. published this luxury paperback in 2001.

This unusually attractive volume sold at £12.99. The pages have a good feel and the typography is uncrowded. The editorial policy has been well thought out. The 30 translators had to be native speakers of English. Each translation was then read over by an Icelandic scholar and after that a native English speaker looked over the text.

The tales in this book are digestible as narratives because of the plainness of language. For some the frequent genealogical ‘son of’ references might not seem attractive but the swing of the story will carry the reader along.

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My home English tuition lessons sometimes involve texts in translation and as I was reading Prof. Serendip’s comments about the scholars involved in the Icelandic translations I began to wonder about the tasks of translating works such as ‘War and Peace’, ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Faust’. A subject for a blog post in the future me thinks.

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Books (Photo credit: henry…)

From → Books

  1. Billie permalink

    It’s sad that some books are being culled in libraries but having worked in a library for many years, it is sometimes necessary to make place and space for newer, better volumes of works or because some works just never left the library as part of a member’s borrowed books.

    In the case of the Icelandic sagas, I believe that this should have stayed on the shelves because of its nature (legends, sagas, mythology), especially if it’s translated very well and if it contains a decent background, added photos and referrals.

    • Thank you taking time out to comment on the post. You are right in your comment about space shortage but our local university has put in armchair seating and computer stations at the expense of book shelving. Where does this stop? When there are no books? It is an interesting point you make about books not borrowed – I forsee shelves with romances and Harry Potter at the expense of scholarly (but unpopular) books. You mention ‘. . . better volumes of works. . . ‘. I wonder who is qualified to decide which go to the skip and which remain. The Icelandic book is fascinating, in my opinion. Is my opinion enough to save it? I doubt it because who am I? I am merely a lover of books.

  2. Billie permalink

    Apologies for the late reply… It is sad indeed when books need to be culled to make space for computers and furniture. In my eyes and as a true bibliophile, no book should ever be culled, which is why I think libraries should have an archive to store books that are either never taken out of the library or when space is needed for the things above.

    Librarians or other library employees with a lot of knowledge are the ones to decide if/when a book should be culled. Because of their vast knowledge of the types of books out there, plus having a good internet-based library catalogue helps in deciding on what has to stay and what not. In the case of the Icelandic sagas, it could end up in an archive if space is needed in the library itself but it should not be culled. The problem is that in the case of public libraries, government funds are not always available for adding space in back offices or archives. It is truly sad when books like this should ever be culled.

    • Everything you say is correct. The one problem, as I see it, is that is that no one is fully qualified to cull books. As you say, librarians etc. are probably the ‘best fit’. In the case of the retired professor (now in his mid 80’s) that writes our ‘Book Culling Posts’ we have a problem. He was a Classics lecturer and published translator. He now finds that his translated publications from Ancient Greek are no longer on the university shelves. Of course, it is material that is seldom read today but does that mean they should be put in the skip? Would the librarians you mention retain his books? Do they have interest whatsoever in translated Greek classics? Who is knowledgeable enough to say that his works need to remain on the shelves? When several food banks are opening daily in Britain I don’t hold out much hope for ‘government funds’.

  3. It saddens me when a book like this is removed from library shelves. I truly wish every book could be kept, but I can certainly see the space problem (it exists in my own home, which is overflowing with books, and I can’t relinquish any of them). Is there anything that can be done (for the libraries. I am a hopeless case)?

    • In my area (Stoke On Trent – England) the local council have closed several of the smaller community libraries this last year because of cuts in funding by central Government. Less shelf space = books culled I guess. Very sad.

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