Apparently there is a meme going around the blogosphere in which people dig into their personal libraries on a search for the oldest book they have – originals, that is, not reprints or printouts. Considering that I am a book lover and a book hoarder, I was surprised to see how few of my books are really old.
It is not surprising that history bloggers have much older books than us mere mortals. Check out the ancient texts collected by Duane Smith, Chris Weimar, Chris Tilling and their commenters! Some go back to 16th century! There is no way I can best that.
There is also no way I can best (by excietement, not age) Carel’s old sex manual (this does not sound right – it’s not to meant to imply that Carel learned about sex from it when he was young!), but I have something similar (and older) to what Aydin uncovered. Has anyone else done this meme?
Anyway, let me dig through my library and see what I can find….OK, I decided to make a cutoff at 1930. That, sadly, leaves out some nice first editions of Dobzhansky, Huxley, Rensch and Myer, as well as two historically important 1948 books that I have already written at length about. Here they are in chronological order (I may have missed some – my library is in a total dissarray these days!):
1825 – “The Iliad” translated by Alexander Pope, vol.II. I believe that this is the oldest book in our library.
1866 – a printing of the seventh edition of “Natural History of Animals containing brief descriptions of the animals figured on Tenney’s natural history tablets, but complete without the tablets, by Sanborn Tenney and Abby A. Tenney, illustrated with five hundred wood engravings chiefly of North American animals”.
1874 – second edition of “Descent of Man” by Charles Darwin.
1874 – “The Science Record for 1874, a Compendium of Scientific Progress and Discovery during the past year with illustrations”, edited by Alfred E. Beach. A “Scientific American” publication (600 pages). The first illustration is a drawing of Baron Justus von Liebig.
1875 – “Istorija Postanja”, a Serbian translation of the “History of Creation” by Ernst Haeckel. There is so much history surrounding this book, its unfortunate translator and his equally unfortunate brother (who himself translated T.H.Huxley and Darwin) that it will be a real project to write about it one day – a 5000-word post perhaps?! Short story – this is the first book about evolution translated into Serbian and it served as a biology textbook for 11th grade for many years.
1879 – “The Evolution Of Man, a popular exposition of the principal points of human ontogeny and phylogeny from the German of Ernst Haeckel”, Vol.I.
1895 – The Lowell Lectures on The Ascent Of Man by Henry Drummond, 5th edition. I still have to read this. Evolution of humans with catchy chapter titles like “The Ascent of the Body”, “The Scaffolding Left In The Body”, “The Arrest of the Body”, “The Dawn of Mind”, “The Evolution of Language”, The Struggle For Life”, “The Struggle for the Life of Others”, “The Evolution of a Mother”, “The Evolution of a Father” and “Involution”.
unknown age – “An Introduction To Science” by Clark (missing first 20 pages). Looks like late 19th century.
1906 – “Pfeffer’s Physiology of Plants” by A.J.Ewart, Vol.III
1908 – New Worlds For Old by H.G.Wells, a non-fiction book about Socialism.
1909 – “Essays Civil And Moral” by Francis Bacon.
1910 – The prince and his ants (Ciondolino) by Ricardo Vamba aka Luigi Bertelli. I wrote about it here.
1924 – American Pocket Medical Dictionary, 12th edition, fourth printing.
1924 – “Modern Algebra, Ninth School Year” by Raleigh Schorling and John R. Clark.
1927 – “Organic Evolution” by Richard Swann Lull. Not a very rare book – it may have been used as a textbook at some time.
1928 – “The New Reformation – from physical to spiritual realities” by Michael Pupin. The second-most-famous Yugoslav scientist after Tesla.
1929 – “Bambi” by Felix Salten, translated by Whittaker Chambers, illustrated by Kurt Wiese, with Foreword by John Galsworthy (who ends with “I particularly recomend it to sportsmen”). I believe this is the first English translation of the book.