For as long as I can remember, and I have a pretty long span, he has been known as the book king. He even signs his name that way on Christmas cards. In any antiques store he could always be found among the books. Turn him loose in a bookstore and he’s good for hours. Like a lot of people he goes to book sales at the library. In fact though, he has graduated from just going to the sale to a position where he provides consultation regarding book values, and works the sale as a volunteer. He’s known as the king because he’s a collector, and he’s got a lot of books.
He specializes in maritime, military and poetry. But that doesn’t limit, or define his collection. There is history, biography, science and mathematics. More recently he’s collected a lot of books on medicine as he reads to understand his own medical status. He doesn’t do romance novels or cookbooks, but everything else has found its way into his collection.
No one ever knew how many books he had. Too hard to count. What we knew was that in every room of the house there were shelves and shelves filled with books. They were stacked on the floor. Stacked on stacks. On the furniture. In the bathroom. They were everywhere, and not in small numbers. We just knew he was the king, and had a lot of books.
In the last couple of months he’s been getting a handle on the books. He and my mother are moving. And there is no room for all of the books. He poured over them again and again trying to figure out which ones he could part with. I don’t know what his criteria are for keeping or setting free. I doubt that he’s looked at all of them, but he’s made a good effort at it. He’s got a lot of other things going on with this move.
Three book dealers came to the house. One at a time. The first one bought something like four hundred books. The second dealer took seven hundred. I think the last guy left with something like nine hundred. Then there was the big giveaway. The AAUW, Association of American University Women, were the lucky recipients of over a thousand books. Just come pick ‘em up and they’re yours. I went through the whole collection before the dealers, and I took a couple for myself. As did my brother. And sister.
Don’t get the wrong idea. He hasn’t been cleaned out. No telling how many books he’s kept for himself. I know I saw him moving more bookshelves into his new apartment. He’s planning to start gathering more books soon. But it took a lifetime to gather the original collection, and now he’s only got what’s left of a lifetime to rebuild. And I haven’t even mentioned all the books my mother has! Off to a grand new start. Long live the King! And Queen.
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