If You Can Read This…

September 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm 2 comments

There once was a series of cute bumper stickers that started with this phrase, and I’m sure nearly everyone has seen one version or another. I say nearly because Austin is home to one of the largest groups of people who have never seen this bumper sticker – or anything else for that matter. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) is located only a few blocks from our store, and every week I notice at least a few people walking past who have long white canes or service dogs leading the way. Occasionally we have customers come into the store who are visually impaired, but rarely to the point where they cannot see well enough to read.

I consider myself to be fortunate in many ways, perhaps the most in that my vision is nearly perfect for my age. Good vision runs in my family but other relatives have not been so lucky. Before he recently passed away my father-in-law was a voracious reader until he developed cataracts and lost one eye due to cancer a few years ago. He tried to make the most of his situation using special reading lights and magnifying lenses, but I could tell it was a frustrating struggle for him to read just one of the many magazines he received each week.

Ironically there is a new piece of technology that offers a great deal of hope for people who are marginally sighted and wish to continue reading. I say “ironically” because several of my recent blog posts have blasted this technology as hastening the demise of published media. Of course I’m referring to electronic book readers like the Amazon Kindle, and although there are good reasons to be upset by the changes that such technology brings, there are also some amazing opportunities that this technology offers to those who have difficulty reading smaller fonts. With the click of a few buttons, a visually impaired reader can download a nearly limitless number of e-books and view them on their e-book reader in any size or style of font they want – essentially turning any book into LARGE TYPE. Personal computers offer similar capabilities in addition to another option: converting electronic books into audio books. The evolution of these technologies offers hope to many who could otherwise not read.

Unfortunately the reality is that many visually-impaired readers simply cannot afford anything beyond the most basic reading materials. Until the day comes when e-book readers and computers are free, the only mechanism these folks can reliably use to read is their fingertips. The Braille method of reading and writing has been around for almost 200 years and countless thousands of blind and visually-impaired students have learned to read using this technique. Louis Braille, who accidentally blinded himself with an awl at a young age, was inspired to represent characters as a grid of raised dots and used the same awl he was blinded with to create his alphabet on punched paper. Until recently Braille materials were extremely difficult and time-consuming to produce since each character had to be punched by hand on the back of a page from right-to-left in mirror image. Although special computer programs and dot-matrix printers have been developed which dramatically reduce the time and effort of printing Braille, the resulting works are still limited in size and content compared to their flat-printed equivalents.

Fortunately not all people who have visual impairments are unable to read. Corrective lenses and advances in ophthalmology have enabled millions of people with cataracts and detached retinas to see well enough to read again after suffering years of failing vision. However there are still eye diseases such as macular degeneration for which there are few treatments, and often the only option for people with these conditions is to select books printed in Braille or LARGE TYPE. As is often the case with Braille materials, publishers increasingly view LARGE TYPE as a niche market so that only the most popular new releases are published in this format.

When life seems too short and time passes too quickly, perhaps that is an indication that you are having a good time. Imagine what those hours you spend curled up with a good book would feel like if you could not read at all. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to read should never take this simple process for granted. Read as much as you can, as often as you can. Maybe that bumper sticker should say: IF YOU CAN READ THIS, CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY!.

If you or a friend is a visually impaired reader, Recycled Reads is here to help. We recently received a large donation of soft-cover Braille text books and literature, and as always we offer a significant selection of LARGE TYPE books. For those who find either of these formats too difficult to read, we also carry a large and ever-changing selection of Books On Tape in our MEDIA section. Hopefully we can help you find something in our store that will satisfy your urge for a good book – regardless of what form it takes.

Once again this week we were the grateful recipient of service from a group of hard-working volunteers from National Instruments. Not only did these energetic young people tackle several labor-intensive projects that we had deferred, they did it on a SUNDAY. Now that’s what I call dedication! Our thanks go out to Jen, Kevin, Jason, Chris and Sunil for their hard work – we really appreciate your help and look forward to your next visit to the store.

New Collectibles
This week we continue to highlight just a few of the many new additions going into to our Collectibles Cabinets. If you have questions about these or any of our Collectibles, please contact us during store hours at (512) 323-5123.

The following items will be available beginning Thursday September 2nd:

The History of the French Revolution (1893) – Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) wrote The History of the French Revolution when his friend John Stuart Mill found himself unable to fulfill his contractual obligations to his publisher to write such a work. Mill proposed that Carlyle produce the work instead, and even sent his friend a library of books and other materials concerning the Revolution. After finishing the first volume of his epic project in 1834, Carlyle sent his only completed manuscript of the text to Mill. Unfortunately for both men, Mill’s maid famously mistook the manuscript for trash and burned it. It was said that Carlyle then rewrote the entire manuscript from memory, achieving what he described as a book that came direct and “flamingly” from the heart.

Carlyle’s original three-volume work was first published in 1837 and was a widely acclaimed success. A revised edition was printed in 1857. A massive undertaking which draws together a wide variety of sources, Carlyle’s work charts the course of the French Revolution from 1789 to the height of the Reign of Terror in 1793-94, and culminates in 1795. Written in dramatic language, the history of the Revolution is brought to life in a way few historians have been able to do, and it immediately established Carlyle’s reputation as an important 19th century intellectual. It also served as a major influence on a number of Carlyle’s contemporaries – most notably Charles Dickens, who compulsively read and re-read Carlyle’s work while producing A Tale of Two Cities, one of Dickens most well-known and popular novels.

Published by Thomas Y. Crowell, NY with Copyright 1893, this two-volume set is a First Edition (by this publisher). Both volumes are beautifully half-bound in burgundy cloth and faux leather with extensive gilt spine ribbing, designs and titles plus lightly marbleized and finished page edges. The original owner’s small-size name stamp and vintage bookstore sticker from Corner Brothers Booksellers of Austin are present in both volumes, and a gift inscription to the original owner (dated 1893) is in Volume 1. This item was donated by the descendants of the set’s original owner and both volumes are in well-cared for condition.


History Of English Thought In The Eighteenth Century (1949) – Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904) was an outspoken English author and critic, a well-known mountaineer, and was the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century is generally recognized as an important addition to philosophical literature. This scholarly yet highly readable work is still widely consulted today for its explanations of the responses made by English thinkers to the challenge set by the new sciences of the Christian cosmology.

Much of the last 25 years of Stephen’s life was devoted to this History. This classic philosophical work was first published in 1876, with the ‘Third Edition’ being published in 1902, just two years before Stephen’s death in 1904. This set is a 1949 printing of the ‘Third Edition’.

Published by Peter Smith, NY with no Copyright. First published in 1876, the Third Edition was published in 1902 and reprinted in 1949. This is a former library set with the usual stamps and stickers and was published without dust jackets.


Driftwood Heritage – The History of Driftwood, Texas (1976) – Most Austin-area residents know Driftwood, Texas as the home of The Salt Lick BBQ restaurant or (for those who are a bit older) because of memories spent at Camp Ben McCulloch. This scarce book is a well-researched history of Driftwood from earliest times up through the mid 1970′s, and includes information on the area’s earliest settlers, post-civil war settlers, cotton farmers, late 1800′s families up through the newest arrivals at the time this book was published, plus information on the post office, churches, schools, recreation, and cemetery records. This book was published by the Driftwood Ladies-Aid, and we’ve only located one other copy in the current resell market.

Published by Driftwood Ladies-Aid (edited by Minnie Lea Rogers) of Driftwood, TX and Copyright 1970, this is a scarce 1976 Second Printing illustrated with photos and map complete with original unaltered dust jacket (no price printed). The dust jacket shows wear and has one small pitted spot on the back panel, and the front free endpaper has been removed (most likely because it was inscribed by the author to the original owner) – otherwise there are no markings or stains.


Texas Garlands (1886) – Martha E. Whitten was a member of one of the pioneer families who settled Austin. This book, first believed to be published in 1885, is poetry written by the author. Some of the poems are about Austin, with the first poem entitled “Austin City”. Other poems are about Texas or specific places in Texas. There are also many poems dedicated to or in memory of well-known Texans and Austinites.

Although the book was written in 1885, it is believed the ‘first’ edition consisted of a very limited run published by the author. This 1886 edition appears to be equally scarce. We believe a third edition was run in limited quantity in 1889. “Print-on-demand” copies of this book are available, but actual hard copy books are incredibly rare. There is a steelplate engraved frontis portrait of Martha E. Whitten, followed by a beautiful dedication page to William S. Hotchkiss, the author’s father. That is followed by an Introduction by W.W. Pinson dated “Austin, July 7, 1886″.

No publisher or copyright listed for this volume which was published without a dust jacket. The cover boards are worn and are lightly soiled, the spine ends are frayed, both front and back hinges are cracked, and although still currently attached, the front free end paper and frontispiece page are coming loose. Despite the binding condition, the gilt page edges, decorations and titles are in good condition.


The Second Sex (1953) – Written by French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir and translated and edited by H.M. Parshley, this is an extremely rare 1953 “First and Second Printing Before Publication” copy of this classic work on the treatment of women throughout history.

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY with Copyright 1953, this is a stated “First and Second Printing Before Publication” copy with the scarce original unaltered dust jacket (no retail price printed). The front hinge is cracked, the front panel is separated from the remainder, a former owner’s bookplate is pasted inside the front cover, and there is heavy edge wear with chipping but there are no loose pages.


Library of Southern Literature (1909) – According to the ‘Preface’ in Volume 1, this work was compiled to represent the literary life of the Southern people of the United States “under the direct supervision of Southern men of letters” editors Edwin Anderson Alderman, Joel Chandler Harris and Charles William Kent. The first thirteen volumes are alphabetical, from Adams-Boyle to Washington-Young. The “Southern” politicians, poets, essayists, and writers include: Jefferson Davis, David Crockett, Edgar Allan Poe, Andrew Jackson, Mirabeau B. Lamar, Helen Keller, Robert E. Lee, Frances Hodgson Burnett, John James Audubon, Ellen Glasgow, and Patrick Henry, among many others.

Joel Chandler Harris, famous for his Uncle Remus and Mr. Rabbit stories, was one of the original editors and his work is included in this set. Volume 14 is labeled ‘Miscellanea’ and includes ballads, folk songs, short poems, and incisive sayings. Volume 15 is a ‘Biographical Dictionary of Authors’, and Volume 16 (missing from this set) contained indexes, reading courses, and historical sidelights. Volume 17 is a ‘Supplement’ published in 1923 containing new author listings not included in the previous publication.

Although the binding cloth and spines are in poor condition, this is a scarce 1909 set of The Library of Southern Literature. Since the interiors of these books are in good to very good condition, we have priced this set to sell quickly to someone looking for a decent reading or rebinding copy of this vintage literature set. The beautiful illustrated plates (about four in each volume) each have their original tissue guards and a few are tipped in. The charming Art Nouveau designed title pages are rendered in the pale green and blue colors common of that era.

Published by The Martin & Hoyt Company of New Orleans, Atlanta, and Dallas with Copyright 1907/1909 and Supplement Copyright 1923, this set was published without dust jackets. As noted, boards and spine cloths are in poor condition but interiors are in good to very good condition. A previous owner’s name is lightly written inside the front covers and an old price sticker shadow is inside the back covers, otherwise there are no markings noted inside the books. There are no binding issues noted except those few volumes with substantial spine damage that results in looseness to the binding overall, and no loose or missing pages. One short tear was noted to one outside page edge of the supplemental volume, there is some staining to the bottom page edge of Volume 1, and the upper page edges are gilt but it is worn.


The Works of Wilkie Collins (1899) – English author, playwright, and novelist William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was trained as a lawyer but is credited with inventing the mystery novel genre. Collins was hugely popular during the Victorian era and wrote 30 novels, more than 60 short stories, 14 plays, and over 100 pieces of non-fiction work. His best-known works are The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Armadale, and No Name, all of which are included in this set of ten books published as part of the illustrated ‘Harper’s Library Edition’ series.

Collins’ works were classified at the time as “sensation novels”, a genre seen nowadays as the precursor to detective and suspense fiction. He also wrote on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time. For example, his 1854 Hide and Seek (also included in this set) contained one of the first portrayals of a deaf character in English literature. Like many writers of his time, Collins published his novels as serials in magazines such as Dickens’ All the Year Round and was known as the master of the form, creating just the right degree of suspense to keep his audience reading from week to week. Sales of All the Year Round actually increased when The Woman In White followed Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Collins enjoyed 10 years of great success following the publication of The Woman In White in 1859. His next novel No Name combined social commentary on the absurdity of the law as it applied to children of unmarried parents with a densely plotted revenge thriller. Armadale, the first and only of Collins’ major novels of the 1860′s to be serialized in a magazine other than All The Year Round, provoked strong criticism, generally centered upon its transgressive villainess and in part by the author’s typically confrontational Preface. The Moonstone, published in 1868 and the last novel of what is generally regarded as the most successful decade of Collins’ career, was a significant return to form and reestablished the market value of an author whose success in the competitive Victorian marketplace had been gradually waning in the wake of his first “masterpiece”. Viewed by many to represent the advent of the detective story within the tradition of the English novel, The Moonstone remains one of Collins’ most critically acclaimed productions. T.S. Eliot called it “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels…in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe”, and Dorothy L. Sayers referred to it as “probably the very finest detective story ever written.”

Published by Harper & Brothers, NY with Copyright Various, this 10 volume set consists of 1898 and 1899 printings (from Title Page dates). These unnumbered volumes were published without dust jackets and are uniformly bound in green cloth with gilt titles and ribbing. There is some spotting/discoloration to the cover boards and a few stains inside some covers, but overall there are no binding issues and the set is in well-cared for condition.

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Loose Ends Happy Holiday Week

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brenda Trojacek  |  September 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I noticed your copy of Texas Garlands. I believe I have one of the hardback copies that you said was incredibly rare. Would like to get more information. Could you help?
    Thanks, Brenda Trojacek 817-522-8093

    • 2. recycreads  |  September 22, 2010 at 1:25 am

      Thanks for your interest in our “Texas Garlands” Collectible. We try to publish all of the background information we find on the Collectibles we showcase on our blog, so unfortunately there’s not much more to tell about that book. We use Google to track down links to the authors and individual works, plus follow up on any information contained in the copy we have (newspaper clippings, articles, etc.). As for rarity, that is determined based on condition and the number of similar copies available for sale on the used book market. You can check places such as EBay, Addall, AbeBooks and even Amazon to find comparable editions and prices. Hope that helps!


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