NEWTOWN — The Friends of the C.H. Booth Library’s 44th annual Book Sale is set for Saturday, July 13, through Wednesday, July 17, at Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, when all items will be half-price; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, when items will be $5 per bag; and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, when remaining items will be free for the taking.
Admission is $5 per person on Saturday and free thereafter, with those 18 and younger admitted free every day.
The book sale features many thousands of books, CDs, DVDs and LPs, filling two gymnasium-sized rooms and spilling over into the connecting hallways.
Once again, antiquarian book expert John Renjilian will preside over a room of “specials,” including first editions, signed copies and other rare, historic and unusual books.
This year’s sale includes a first edition, probable second issue, of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” dated 1843, with a bookplate indicating it was once owned by 1919 Yale graduate and book collector Ganson Goodyear Depew.
The treasure will be sold together with an 1846 edition of Dickens’ “The Cricket on the Hearth” and a 1920s facsimile copy of “A Christmas Carol.”
“This is the first Charles Dickens first edition I’ve seen in the 43 years I’ve been volunteering for the sale,” said John. “It’s one of the most valuable items we’ve found — second only to the whaling journal we sold for $3,500 in 2011.”
Sale organizers don’t know who donated the Dickens books, which priced at $3,200 for the lot comprise the most expensive items in this year’s sale.
“We almost never have someone tell us ‘I have a valuable book to donate,’” said committee member Toni Earnshaw. “They’re almost always found by the eagle-eye sorters in the sorting room.”
Items like the first edition Dickens are the reason that by 9 a.m. on opening day, hundreds of people will be lined up in hopes of finding a choice book at a bargain price. Dozens of them will have placed “markers” days earlier to hold their place in line until numbered admission tickets go on sale at 7 a.m.
“We price for dealers and for collectors who are looking for a dealer’s price,” said John. “We want everyone to remember the great deals they got and come back next year.”
“We’re here to sell,” said Toni. “John has a reputation for being honest, fair and a reliable source of information about these books. People come from far and wide.”
Also of note this year are two volumes of Japanese prints by Tairo Isikawa, “Shuchin Gajo: Collection of Precious Pictures,” thought to have been published in 1803, from the collection of John Angel (1881-1960), one of America’s foremost sculptors.
Mr. Angel lived in Sandy Hook and is buried in Zoar Cemetery.
“These are all original woodblock prints, copies from another famous Japanese artist who had done them 100 years earlier,” said John. “There are three volumes; we have two. There are a total of about 80 woodblock prints. We priced it at $800, because of the quality of the prints and because it belonged to a famous artist.”
Longtime sorter Joanne Zang first came across the book of prints and passed it along to John for appraisal.
“Joanne does our art section,” said John. “She knew it was something special.”
Joanne also came up with an art book by German artist Dietz Edzard, whose paintings hang in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The book has a sketch on the fly signed D. Edzard and a number of similar drawings tucked inside.
“Maybe he [Edzard] did them,” said John, who has priced the book and its extras at $450. “We’ll find out at the sale. Someone will know.”
“A Complete Genealogical, Historical, Chronological and Geographical Atlas” by M. Lavoisne, third edition, a general guide to ancient and modern history, is priced at $1,000.
Published in 1821, the atlas is filled with hand-colored charts and maps, including one by prominent cartographer John Melish of the U.S., the first published map showing the American West after the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
This year’s specials room also holds a collection of golf books, one of the first computer textbooks, and a number of items relating to baseball, including two scrapbooks presumably assembled by a young New Yorker to commemorate the 1947 and 1949 World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers.
The 1947 scrapbook is particularly significant because that happens to be the year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
The oldest book in the sale, “Twelve Discourses” by Rev. Benjamin Trumbull, can be had for a mere $100. An 1888 translation of Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales is $75 and “My Country’s Flag of Stars,” an 1896 campaign songster in perfect condition, is $200.
“All kinds of weird things come in,” John said. “We have two copies of a hymnbook written in the Maori language. They might be common as dirt in New Zealand, but here, they’re quite unusual.”
As for the open sales floor, Book Sale Chair Denise Kaiser told Voices that with more than 120,000 books in 90 categories and sub-categories, spread over more than 225 tables, patrons are pretty much guaranteed to find something they like.
Adult fiction fills the school’s all purpose room, with separate areas for trade paperbacks, mysteries, historical fiction and more. Non-fiction is arranged by category and sub-category in the gymnasium and elsewhere.
Among non-fiction, highlights this year include an extensive collection of Civil War books covering both sides of the conflict; an unusually broad selection of recent books on classic movies, actors and actresses; a wide selection of sheet music from beginner to advanced, particularly for the clarinet; an assortment of books on the sport of boxing; the contents of a private museum collection of books on golf; a large number of Hayes auto repair manuals and more than 100 bound issues of Automobile Quarterly.
“We likely have thousands of CDs, DVDs and audiobooks,” said Toni.
Workers inspect all CD sets to make sure they are complete and in working order. Likewise, an army of volunteers works year round, taking puzzles home and working them to make sure there are no missing pieces.
“We have 500 puzzles,” said Category Manager Don Ragatz, a Danbury resident who has been volunteering since 1999. “Some of them take forever and a day to do.”
Don also takes all the games home, goes over them to make sure they’re complete, then puts them back together again.
Volunteer Janice Bernard, a retired teacher who works in the children’s area, noted an unusual number of children’s book series this year.
“We have the ‘I Survived’ series, ‘The Edge Chronicles’ series, ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ series, all for ages 8 to 12,” she said. “In the fiction area, we have easy reader classics like ‘Canterbury Tales,’ ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’”
There are books from the Judy Moody and Stink series, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse books, Captain Underpants books and lots of Harry Potter.
Vintage series like Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins are collected in a separate area for people who want to introduce their children and grandchildren to books they loved.
Children’s non-fiction books are categorized by type, including science, history, math, growing up, plants and animals, reference books, etc., and also by age, with easy-to-read in one area and 8 to 12 in another.
“In non-fiction, we have a nice collection of the ‘Who Was,’ ‘Who Is’ and ‘Where Is’ books,” said Janice. “They always sell out on the first day.”
“The sale has a reputation as one of the largest, if not the largest, in the region,” said Toni. “It’s also one of the best organized. All of the fiction is alphabetized by author. We have category experts on the sales floor to help people find what they’re looking for.”
“Most of the volunteers in a particular area have a professional knowledge base or a strong amateur interest in their area,” said Denise. “Janice is a retired teacher. The gals who do the cookbooks know how to cook. The woman who heads up the crafts area is an astounding craftsperson.”
On the open floor, paperbacks are $1, trade paperbacks are $2 and hardcovers are $2. Beautiful art books can be had for $10 to $15.
Most children’s books are priced from 25 cents to $2.
“It’s really affordable for most families,” said Toni. “We have a half-price day, and a $5-a-bag day. We want everyone to leave with books.”
With 44 years of sorting and pricing, displaying and selling, book sale volunteers know what they’re doing and do it well. But according to Denise, committee members are always looking for ways to do things better.
“We respond to what people ask for,” she said. “Our patrons are very open about what they think we can do to make the sale better, and we listen.”