Once upon a time, we had a volunteer who spoke of the Newberry Book fair as the “Little Treasures Sale”. She explained, “It’s a place where you can go and find little treasures you didn’t know you needed.” I was a little offended by this—surely people find big treasures here, too—but I get the point. We are not the kind of book sale which specializes only in the things we know thousands of people want. We also offer books and oddities which will be treasures only to a select few.
I thought of this while I was looking over notes on some of the little treasures (some of which are ridiculously large) which have come in over the past year and will be found, just out on the table as if they weren’t the fulfillment of your life’s dreams. I wonder if I mentioned to you that we have:
An avant-garde tea set still shrinkwrapped for its buyer at Marshall Fields: This cost him $200 in 1984—the receipt is with the box—but I’m not sure what that means. I wasn’t buying avant-garde tea sets in 1984 so I can’t make comparisons. The box is open, allowing you to look at the tea set; what I mean by shrinkwrapped is that the pieces of the set–tea pot, tea pot lid, sugar bowl—are all shrinkwrapped in protective cardboard inside the box. The set is white, as is the box: it was obviously all designed to go together. We haven’t identified the designer or the design, but it is just as it was purchased in 1984 EXCEPT that the previous owner took out one mug (they’re too big to be called teacups, really) and left the rest in the shrinkwrap. We did not get that one teacup, but the rest of the set is….
We have a solid, heavy set of plastic bookends shaped like W.C.Fields’s head. If you place these near your tea set, I will not be responsible for bumps in the night.
There is an extensive collection of photographs and slides of events in and around Chicago, most of them identified and dated, and originating in the 1960s and 1970s. I did not take inventory of this, nor did I look at more than one or two of the slides. Are these the albums that will launch another unknown Chicago photographer to international fame, like Vivian Maier? You buy hem and let me know how it works out. (Identity of the photographer supplied to buyer.)
We have six months’ worth of Lippincott’s Magazine published in the 1890s. We don’t get terribly excited about bound volumes of Victorian periodicals because our ancestors read lots of magazines, and many of them are worth only a little more than last week’s New Yorker. But the editor at Lippincott’s was going through a British phase, and he commissioned stories and serial novels from authors in England. This volume contains the first half of a Sherlock Holmes novel. We can also sell you the whole novel in paperback for a buck, but wouldn’t you like to see how it looked originally? (Buy the paperback, too, so you can see how it comes out.)
There are collectibles from some of Chicago’s troubles in the 1960s: a program from the Democratic National Convention, a book signed by the mother and brother of a man they claimed was assassinated by Chicago police, a court document from the appeal of a death sentence handed down to a Chicago gang member…just in case you thought such things started in the twenty-first century.
There’s the Junior Stewardess ring, the Peruvian blowgun, a voodoo kit, a book signed by John Glenn…we have all manner of things we might think of as “Little Treasures”. (A seven foot long blowgun is hardly a LITTLE treasure.) And we have books that may be treasures just to you and to no one else. This slightly crumpled copy of “Little Brown Bear” for a dollar, just like the one your mom threw away when you were in junior high, a hardcover reprint of “The Man Who Was Thursday” which you always swore you’d read someday, or this outdated travel book on Bermuda which happens to have a picture of that hotel where you spent your honeymoon: it’s just about six weeks until we unveil these and other treasures.
Make a little space at home for ‘em. You have been warned.