You might think that the goods with the greatest cultural value will have the highest price tag – not so when it comes to the classics of literature! As the most celebrated works of fiction are regularly reproduced, their editions are numerous, plentiful and cheap. Okay, so the first and rare editions will usually attract a pretty penny, but you don’t need a first or rare edition to enjoy these fine works.
Having restricted myself to reading academic work while undertaking post-graduate study, I’ve been feeling sorely under-versed in classic Western literature. So for the past year it’s been a little project of mine to collect as many classic titles from op-shops and thrift stores as I can find. Not just any old classic title mind you, but ones I thought I’d be interested in reading (I have limited space so I must choose wisely), and ones that cost no more than a couple of bucks.
As a fan of the scholar William James, his novelist brother Henry James has been the focus of my search, but I’ve also picked up novels by the likes of Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Hardy, Mary Shelley, Jean-Paul Sartre and Emily Bronte. Here’s a sample:
My collection of classics (thus far) would not have cost more than $25. A few bucks here, a few bucks there. It’s been far from an expensive exercise. I did however break my limit of $3 per book to buy this gorgeous little hardcover edition of Faust (Parts I & II) by Goethe for $10 from the Boronia Salvos, widely considered the greatest piece of German literature ever. Not in the best condition for a 1986 edition with a split down the side of the front cover, but still a beautiful little book none the less. The Bookish Ardour blog likes it too! In mint condition the value could have been $30USD+.
It’s a fantastic thing that pretty much everyone can afford to create their own library of classic literature for as little as 50c to $2 a pop. And honestly, what home is complete without one? If I had a young family (happily child-free, thank you very much!) I would think this a lovely thing to do for my kids, to ensure the bookshelves are jammed full of wonderful, thought provoking books.