The delights of library book sale: The war, faith, our state’s history, liberty

The book sale offerings this year on the War to Prevent Southern Independence are strong. These books are among those I’ve bought that touch on the fight for a decentralized political order in America.

Jeannette grabbed a Washington Irving book, propped in our dining room window sill. The red-taped volume in the foreground is “The Illustrated Treasury of Poetry for Children” with an introduction by Mark Van Doren. Both are library book sale finds. We love the library book sale, and hope you take advantage of it.

I am blessed to have married a book lover 21 years ago, a gal who has pursued a love of literature and library. Jeannette and I always look forward to the event this time of year at Eastgate Town Center: the book sale put on by friends of the public library, who are the object of much book-giving, estate tidyings and donations for tax-writeoff purposes.

The event runs through Sept. 24. I was pressed for time Saturday, having only 45 minutes to peruse, but I found two worthy books and plan to go back — maybe tomorrow. The group’s website says 30,000 volumes are for sale.

Jeannette plunges into the art and children’s sections, and is a connoisseur  of children’s authors. On Friday she spoke with our daughter, Abigail, a student in Manhattan, about art books. Hold off on any more Rodin, the girl said. She is content for now with finds from the book sale in the past three years.

The sale moved from the main floor of the center into one of the suites. It was crowded. The lighting is improved. The offerings were more voluminous, and I wish I had not been under a duty to whisk a boy to archery event at a 4-H gathering.

If time is short on any given visit, I start with the religion section, then go to history and government. A man’s prowlings at a library, bookshop or used book stall tell something of his outlook. He looks for books that are part of his worldview that perhaps expand or defend it. Sometimes he will obtain a book by someone on the other side or from a new side in a debate.

IF HE HAS DUTCH RELATIONS and knows that the Dutch fought tyranny at the time of the Reformation and produced many martyrs for the church, he will take Motley’s Dutch Nation, of which the library had a 1908 edition put into discard.

If knows that the Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish, depending on whom you believe) brought rugged character into the American colonies, supplied the backbone in the War for Independence against the British the second War for Independence against Washington, D.C., he will grab The Scotch-Irish[;] a Social History by James G. Leyburn. That Presbyterian immigrants memorized swathes of the Westminster Confession of Faith and children the Shorter Catechism explains why the Americans once had a 95+ percentage literacy rate.

This year many volumes are on sale about the war. A More Perfect Union[;] The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution by Harold M. Hyman is one likely overlooked by readers who care about generals, sieges and campaigns. Jeannette found Douglas Southall Freeman’s children’s book, Lee of Virginia. I told her I saw his magnificent three-volume biography on Lee over in the sets section for F$20. It won’t be there when I get back.

If a book lover knows that the Federalist Papers convey the nationalist and establishment opinion of the proposed federal constitution, he will make sure to strip the row of its copy of The Anti-Federalists by Jackson Turner Main. Main says the anti-federalists were anti-aristocratic and democratic in their interest and that they distrusted the centralization of power under the constitution. They fought to get the amendments added, even though the constitution is structured as an enumerated powers document.

A lover of the Bible will be drawn to histories such as Our Confessional Heritage that has summaries of biblical doctrine from the Apostles Creed, the Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Barmen declaration. He will also buy A History of Christianity by Clyde L. Manschreck, which came out of Sewanee’s library and is comprised of all sorts of readings from the early church on.

Of course a man who reads knows that titles mean less than the author. A lover of history may read anything by Bruce Catton, an expert on the War Between the States. Almost every year I am one or two volumes richer in Paul Johnson, the greatest living historian. Last year I got his The Offshore Islanders[;] England’s People from Roman Occupation to the Present (1972). Jeannette is reading Johnson’s A History of the American People (1997) to one of our boys.

Always there are special finds. Last year I obtained Ira Berlin’s Slaves Without Masters[;] the Free Negro in the Antebellum South (1976). Freed blacks comprised 5 percent of total population and 9 percent of the black. My question is: To what extent did the gospel give slaves the moral and personal means to buy their own liberty and prosper as freemen? I have yet to read past the first chapter.

A HUGE GAP IN MY knowledge is of my home state. Last year I found a university professor’s book giving a summary of state history. Tennessee[;] a Short History (1981) is by Robert E. Corlew of MTSU. On Saturday I was drawn to buy the well-illustrated Divided Loyalties[;] Fort Sanders and the Civil War in East Tennessee by Digby G. Seymour, published by University of Tennessee Press.

The last category I mention is the stuffy church history. There are volumes every year that I obtain that give a view of American sects or church history. I read very carefully F.E. Mayer’s The Religious Bodies of America (1958) and read chapters in William Warren Sweet’s The Story of Religion in America (1930, 1950). Another volume of this type, A History of the Churches in the United States and Canada by Robert T. Handy (1977) remains patiently on a shelf.

Sometimes one buys a book that is perhaps regressive in what it offers. I have been reading Nesta Webster’s 1919 classic, The French Revolution. The county library surrendered an illustrated volume, Voices of the French Revolution, and what I read about Duc d’Orleans makes me wonder what other elements of the narrative exposed by Webster are obscured in the new acquisition. But the 1988 book is in full color and has its own argument.

Some sorts of books one rarely finds at the book sale. These are ones on historical revisionism (9/11, for example), Freemasonry and conspiracy, though the politics section has many volumes that offer a sort of establishmentarian anti-establishmentarianism. I rarely find any theological commentaries, and some of the biblical studies I see are by authors whose names I do not recognize. Puritans are rarely available.

At the very end of the event the volunteers give away books and books on tape by the bag.

My interests in liberty and history are satisfied by these finds at the Chattanooga library book sale at Eastgate Town Center.