The proper place of things

I spent a big chunk of my Sunday adding books to my LibraryThing account. I had a basic account for a rather long time, promptly filled it with the allowable 200 books, and then let it lie dormant for a long while. Last week, I upgraded to a lifetime membership, and yesterday, I received a CueCat ISBN scanner from two brilliant folks–*waves at Laura and Linda*–so today, I dove in.

The awesome part is that I was able to log two and a half bookcases in around two hours. The less awesome part is that the other half-bookcase was made up of books that were too old to have ISBN barcodes, and so all of those needed to be logged by hand. So I gathered them up, two totebags at a time, and carried them downstairs where I could log books and watch football at the same time.
(Yes, I am aware that my process is needlessly complicated.)
And that turned out to be rather pleasant, like visiting with old friends. You see, most of those books I had to log by hand had, at one time, belonged to a professor I had at Lycoming College: Dr. Emily Jensen. When she retired from teaching, she invited the campus’s English majors to her office to empty her bookshelves because, she said, her best copies were at home. At the time, it was a bittersweet moment, of course: I was losing one of my favorite instructors, the one who’d really turned me on to Old English poetry, to Beowulf (hlaford of my heart), but there was also the excitement of getting an orange crate’s worth of Old English grammar books and strange little treasures. As a nerdy wee undergrad, I was ecstatic: these weren’t anthologies, these weren’t “textbooks.” These were the kinds of books that full-fledged scholars used, and it didn’t matter at all that many of them were printed before my parents were even born. That was even a bonus: the alluring scent of yellowing pages and glue from far-off book binderies.
Today, as I said, I spent time with those books. What stood out this time were the notes inside of them, the thin, pink-orange sheets torn off the cheapest of those old notepads covered in Dr. J’s peculiar small handwriting. She wrote everything in a very upright cursive, and though her letters didn’t slant back toward the left, there was always the suggestion of it, as though her hand was shaped by the Carolingian minuscule that comprised her subject areas of choice. I thought about taking a photo of her notes, but those still feel very much like hers, that they should stay between the pages where I found them.
I’m going to spend a few more hours on my book-space tonight, too, and I will be in the best of company.

3 thoughts on “The proper place of things

  1. I, too, have very fond memories of E.J. Although she didn't quite inspire me to the depths of love for her specialty that you have, she did manage to make me grasp a little of Old English, and having dreaded taking that course, I was pleasantly surprised to be so mistaken about it all.


  2. @Diane: The best thing about these sort of treasures is that they just continue to become more and more valuable.

    @laytonwoman3rd: She also started me, in Brit Lit I, in a completely unexpected relationship with Francis Burney's Evelina, which I ended up reading at least 4 times before finishing the last of the degrees. And every time, I loved it a little more (going from blackest hate to an actual fondness for it). Such strange, strange and lovely connections.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s