Hundreds of books, thousands of books…..

Facing the task of packing and moving our library, I was reminded of that wonderful book I used to read with my children, Wanda Gag’s ‘Millions of cats’.


‘Hundreds of cats books, thousands of cats books and millions and billions and trillions of cats books’.

Oddly, I no longer have the book, though I hope one of the offspring has.  ‘Oddly’, because I seem to have most of the others that have accompanied me through life.  Both of us is incapable of downsizing when it comes to books.  Till now.

The study, before downsizing started.
The study, before downsizing started.

When we realised that much of what we own has remained unopened since the day it arrived in France and probably for some years before that, we decided something had to change.  Jettisoning them was unthinkable.  And where in France could we re-home so many books in English?

By chance, I was browsing on the web one day, and realised that many of these old faithfuls have a value.  They could be sold.  So that’s what we’ve decided to do.  But it’s really not about the money.  It’s about knowing that these books will end up with someone who has chosen them and wants them, rather than in some charity shop where, as we know from experience, some would simply moulder or even be thrown before reaching the shelves, even though many would be snapped up.

So…… we now have three kinds of book.  The central core: books we can’t think of doing without – mainly reference books and other much-used non-fiction, with some of our best-loved fiction.  The second kind, the saleable ones, are now boxed up to send to England.  And the last, and smallest group: the ones we’ve decided to do without, and which have little apparent value.  We’ve opened doors to all-comers who want to browse, and we’ve probably re-homed about half.  There are still some 450 still remaining.  They’re heading to Amnesty International in nearby Castelnaudary, who raise funds by selling to both English and French customers.  We know how excited we get when we get the chance to browse a new collection of English books, so we hope they’ll be a good money-raiser for them.

Come and look at some of our books – rejected and selected.

You can tell how long I’ve had this one: it was priced in pre-decimal days, before 1972, so even many British readers may have difficulty in deducing that this scholarly work of non-fiction cost me….. 57 ½ p.

A history book that's now history.
A history book that’s now history.

This book was given to me as a leaving present from work back in the mid ’70s.  It was a good read then, but even more so now as a history of the area we now live in.

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's classic work based on our corner of France.
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s classic work based on our corner of France.

This book belonged to my grandfather, a man who died long before I was born.  Beautiful marbled end papers such as this often came as standard in the 19th century.

Marbled endpaper.
Marbled endpaper.

And finally, a book which though incomplete, is a real piece of history.  It includes handwritten recipes for making ink, polish, peppermint cordial, stove-blacking.  Here’s how to keep your brass and copper ware in tip-top condition.

Handy housewife tips from another age.
Handy housewife tips from another age.

It includes just one newspaper cutting.  By snooping around on the net and looking for this particular  (and unsuccessful) cure for cholera, I surmise it comes from the 1820s.

Cholera cure: a suggestion.
Cholera cure: a suggestion.

Surely even the most die-hard minimalist will forgive me for keeping this book firmly among the family treasures?

And now the books are packed.  Every single one – apart from a few bedtime stories for the next three weeks.  One room done, seven to go.

All gone.
All gone.

12 thoughts on “Hundreds of books, thousands of books…..”

  1. You are the first person I know, apart from me, who owns Hay’s Medieval Centuries. I bought mine in Lsd as well and don’t think I’ve opened it since decimalisation. I’ve still got it because though I’m not a hoarder in any other part of my life I struggle with books and photos.


  2. We went through a similar purging when we retired (two college professors) and moved from two homes into one. Lots of donating of books! It was difficult but freeing in a way (and now we have room for new books!)


  3. …..some memories coming back…..remember – – – still some German in what’s left? going on sorting out here, no space for the new ones I already bought ! books are good friends as well – courage,annaxxx


  4. It’s such a hard thing to cull a home of books – it was painful when we downsized. These days we’ve rediscovered the joy of public libraries (which are free and amazing in Canada) and so we borrow instead of buy most of ours. Good luck with your move.


    1. Well, we’re on our way out of France and back to the UK, where the library service, despite recent cuts, is still pretty good – and free. So we’d planned to follow your good eaxample too. Thanks!


  5. Oh wow, what a difficult task that must have been… But it looks like you’ve made the perfect decision about how to best find a good new home for some of those books. I love the photo of your grandfather’s book! Good luck with the rest of your packing…


    1. Thanks so much. Perhaps you can understand why I’m not commenting too much on your posts at the moment. Your book seems to be enjoying success. I’m so pleased.


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