Leather-bound & Lamb
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
As an aspiring author, I don’t think you’ll ever find me dabbling in any kind of dystopian, futuristic genre. I know, never say never… but, I thoroughly enjoy delving into the past—getting lost in the richness of it. My interests fall within the realm of ancient alchemy, witch trials, Baroque art, and period literature. Folklore, monsters, faeries. I chose medieval Brittany and Cornwall to set my novel in for this very reason.
Yesterday, we took a ride to Julian, California. Nestled between the Cuyamaca and Volcan Mountains, Julian is an old saloon town—a living ghost of the 19th century gold rush era. We enjoy the town simply for its quaint shops, plethoras of local honey and tea, and friendly conversation with locals.
This time though, we went for the multitude of antique shops that line the main road leading into the town; I’m not sure exactly, but I must've counted at least ten on the way in. I was on the prowl for a wooden sign.
The antique shop that ultimately caught my eye was The Barn Vintage Marketplace. From the outside, it looked like every lightworking photographer’s dream setting. Old. Rustic. The perfect cobweb to rust ratio, but not too much. I was afraid that that meant it was going to be full of shabby-chic opulence from the ’70’s and ’80’s, like most of the “vintage” labeled shops scattering the San Diego area. Avon tableware and vinyl collectibles are nothing to scoff at; however, I prefer finds from the 19th century, and especially books published during that timeframe.
Although I didn't find my wooden sign, we were pleasantly surprised. Amidst an abundance of apothecary cupboards, Underwood typewriters, pearls, and iron-wrought chandeliers—we found the books. Actually, it was Tim who found them. He made a beeline for a cylindrical spinning shelf, probably once meant for storing workshop tools. It was heavily stacked with leather-bound classics. These books were pretty old, and breathtaking. Titles spine stamped in gold leaf, and timeworn pages preserved though through the ages.
I walked out—or, rather, Tim escorted me out by the elbow—with two of them. This time, I chose titles that I've not yet read.
The first I discovered was an old French Primer, which I believe was a high school textbook. This one was published in the year 1873 by E. Steiger, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
The second I found chose me. At least it seemed that way. It was small, red, leather-bound book embellished in gold cover lettering. The cover was unattached from the actual binding, so the shop owner kindly secured it with a thin piece of cordage. Wanting to be surprised, I refused to glance at the book title until we got home. It ended up being a book by English author and antiquarian Charles Lamb, entitled Essays of Elia—a collection of Lamb’s own personal essays, then written under the pseudonym Elia to utilize his wit freely. It was published in 1823 in Great Britain.
All in all, I think I've found a hobby; I have always suffered the itching need in bookstores to purchase as many as my wallet allows. I will normally pick a book on my to-be-read list that I would’ve eventually purchased anyway, to quell this never-ending need for literary escapism. But perhaps, there is something different about older pieces—original, first-print copies, written in an age preceding technology—that strikes me as somewhat magical. Maybe, the scholars and luminaries of those times were wizards, too? Sounds like enchantment to me.
Below are several photos of our other finds. This marketplace was enchanting, and a must-see for those venturing into Julian.