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Many are the roads by which a book finds its way into your hands.  Some books are plucked from bookshelves of one’s favorite bookstore-chain and taken home.  Other tomes (perhaps with less glitter and shine) may be found anxiously awaiting your pleasure in second-hand stores, thrift shops and garage sales.  Some books are bestowed into your ownership after the first (and even second) keepers have passed on.

My grandfather-in-law passed away some years ago.  He was a kind man who loved to read and travel.  He also served as a Naval Lieutenant and Combat Intelligence Officer in World War II.  After he died, my mother-in-law gave me some his old books.  I made some space on my shelves and crammed them in. I didn’t think much more about them.  There were other things vying for my attention (like buying brand new bestsellers).  Today, one of the books peeked out at me and caught my eye.  Maybe it was the gold coloring on the aged covers, I don’t know, but I paused and pulled some of them out.

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke (copyright 1895 and 1899).  I’ve never read the story, but I think I’ve heard variations of it. There was a fourth wise man who missed out on the caravan to find the Christ Child.  He intended to bring a pearl, a ruby and a sapphire as gifts.  He set off on his own, hoping to meet up with his friends.  He searched diligently for the Christ, but every time he got close, he was distracted by helping those in need.  I didn’t realize I had this old edition.  Since it is only 74 pages, it should be the perfect little thing to read while my son, Charlie, has his violin lesson.

Byron’s Poetical Works (published by Gall & Inglis).  Google books tells me that this was published in 1859.  Gall & Inglis no longer exist, but it is a Google eBook, digitized in August 2006. You can take a look at the old illustrations here.

The most interesting thing about my copy is it bears an inscription “Merry Christmas From Plima. Dec 25th, 1876.” I have no idea who Plima was but I think inscriptions are so interesting.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Grant Richards, London, 1902).  Actually, the full title of this allegorical tale is The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which is to Come, Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream.  What a mouthful. In fifth grade, my teacher read this to our class. It’s a good thing she did because I probably would never have read it otherwise.  The inscription in this book says “James W Milner, Dewsbury, June 18 ’03.”  I’m thinking that’s for 1903 ’cause it sure can’t be for 2003.  I’m also guessing that this is Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, England (since the publisher is in London) rather than say . . . Dewsbury in Florida.  Not that there is a Dewsbury in Florida (actually, I wouldn’t know), but there is a Hollywood, Florida.  (As a side note, I always wonder why one would want to name their city after a big, famous one.  Example:  Moscow, Idaho versus Moscow in Russia.)

Foreign Phrases in Daily Use (Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York & London 1916, Printed in the United States of America.)  According to this little phrase book it is “A Reader’s Guide to Popular and Classic Terms in the Literature of Seven Languages With Explanations of Their Meanings.”  Most of the phrases were unfamiliar to me.  Perhaps I’m not reading the right stuff or I would encounter such phrases as jacta alea est which is Latin for “the die has been cast.”

I wonder if there is an iPhone app for this.

The next time you are in an argument, try using some of these phrases to intimidate, or if all else fails, confuse your adversary.

The next time your girlfriend or wife gets annoyed that you’re going out (for the fifth time this week) to hang with your useless guy friends, you can say
damnant quod non intelligunt = (Latin) they condemn what they do not understand.  Gals, this can work for you too on your next shopping trip.  Here are some others.

i frutti proibiti sono i piu dolce = (Italian) The forbidden fruits are the sweetest
infra dignatatem = (Latin) Beneath one’s dignity
Verbum sat sapienti = a word to the wise is sufficient (I’ll have to say that to my son sometime, although I’m bound to get a puzzled look, which I prefer over a disgusted or patronizing look)
il faut laver son linge sale en famille = (French) One ought to wash one’s soiled linen in private.

Treasure Island and Kidnapped by R.L. Stevenson (Cassell and Company, LTD. London, Paris, New York, Toronto & Melbourne 1907).  I’ve never read this book.

Do you get bored while riding in your horse and buggy? Well this handy edition of MacBeth is small enough to take anywhere!

Shakespear’s MacBeth, The Handy Edition (Sibley & Drucker 1897).  These days, one might use the iPhone to peruse a little Shakespeare while waiting to kill time at your friendly neighborhood coffee house.  About 100 years ago, book lovers were carrying around little books like these.

I shall sign off now.  Glückliche Reise or prosperous journey to you!

What books have you inherited?