The Keeper of The Tomes

07 Jul

Since my early formative years, I have always loved books and reading; books were my portal into a world of adventure, Romance and Mystery.

Over the years I have digested books on a diverse array of topics, from fact to fiction encompassing a world of subjects. I used books to educate myself in life, (having been removed from a Christian Brothers college in grade three, due to my inability to learn and being classified as illiterate). My world became a fairytale of adventure and excitement, how soon did my books become alive, virtuality replaced words, experience replaced books. Soon I found myself in uniform, and carrying out Humanitarian work in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, among the Cannibal Kuka Kuka tribe in 1969, from there to South Vietnam in 1970 as a Medical Advisor, I was living my own books and writing my own words as I travelled and experienced the world in a different light. This experience, combined with wisdom, has formed who I am today, formed my opinions, formed my political views and formed my perception of Spirituality. My love of books continued throughout my working life, but now I have defined my interests and hobby into factual accounts from earlier centuries, I love old bookstores, antique stores with books on high shelves, mouldy and dust covered, as though recently taken from the hands of the dead in gloomy graveyards of the 1800s. So my story continues, I now collect ancient books that tell the stories of other times and places, told through the eyes of those long gone, whose memory’s live on in letters and diaries.

So now I collect old books, books dating back into previous centuries, not overly valuable books, but valuable through the eyes of the reader. First edition, mint condition books don’t interest me, they have never seen the light of day. I prefer old books that are dirty, ink stained from notations, curled leaves, scribbles from notes written centuries ago, old books that have been held and cherished by those long gone, that is when you become immersed and one with history.

Now to my literary finds in Chile, Ana and I set out mid morning to locate a small bookstore we had been to once before, we wanted to purchase a basic modern book on Mapuche language that we knew they stocked. We left the secured apartments we were staying in with an Aunt of Ana’s, secured in that there was security gates and guards at the entrance, a quite common occurrence in housing estates throughout Chile. The estate gates led directly onto the main highway into Valparaiso and a set of traffic lights. Now traffic lights in Chile fascinate me, they are always a form of entertainment; once the lights turn red you can expect a display of entertainment, this could be acrobats, jugglers or just those selling products, their timing is spot on, they finish their demonstration about thirty seconds before the lights change, this gives them time to walk between the line of cars and collect donations. Leaving the traffic light entertainment we located our book store a few streets down and off to the side. A small bookstore with shelves awaiting discovery, the storekeeper was an elderly gentleman who gave me the impression of never leaving the store, in actual fact he could have been a character out of many of his tomes.

As in most bookstores in foreign countries, there is a small section that stocks books in English, being directed to the shelf, I found an array of literature worthy of perusing; I looked for that which first met my eye. A biography, by one Peter Dawson. So began an interesting journey back into Australian history of music and Opera.

I read that Peter Dawson was born in 1882, and his career spanned 60 years as a Bass Baritone, performing worldwide with many notable Opera tenors of the time, including Dame Nellie Melba, who he describes in his book, 50 Years of Song, as a rather abrupt person.

Dawson made his first 78 on a wax cylinder back in 1904, and his first Vinyl stereo in 1958; he was one of the first recording artists in Australia, recording for EMI and other new emerging musical studios. I read the biography in a couple of days and unfortunately left it behind in Chile, which I will retrieve next year.

We left Valparaiso and returned to Santiago, my penchant for the elusive antique words was still foremost in my mind. By this time I had learnt to rethink my efforts in finding the books I dearly loved. I came to the conclusion that what I was looking for would not be found on bookstore shelves or any nondescript bookstore in back streets. My books were elusive and would only be found where no one else would look for them.

Bearing this in mind, Ana and I were exploring the streets of Santiago one late afternoon, shops were thriving with business, and stalls of every description impeded the footpaths, it was a moment then that I spied a shop with promise. Through the window I was able to view right to the back of the shop, high on a shelf I saw what I thought was a number of books, now this shop was not a bookstore, more like a cross between  bits and pieces, old furniture in need of repair, oddments of forlorn artwork, pieces of vintage era glassware. We entered the store that appeared to be managed by a Husband and Wife with a small Boy in tow. Casually browsing the shop I made my way to the shelf I had seen from the footpath, and find my treasure, a number of books in English that had not been removed from the shelf for over many decades. Dust covered tomes, faded covers with a smell that could only have come from a Charles Dickens bookstore.

Before I describe my finds, I think it I should explain to you my thinking of finding old books in Chile. Back in the 1800s Chile was quite an emerging country, Santiago and Valparaiso particularly, became of much interest to Colonial Europe, British and European countries opened up various Government buildings, Embassies and Trade Colonial buildings emerged throughout Chile. My thinking was that representatives of these countries were housed in Chile; with them they bought furniture and comforts from home, such as books etc. When the Colonial era started to die out, the representatives sold up and returned home. Hence to this day, one may find Colonial British furniture and artefacts and books in diverse places throughout this South American country. Now to my literary treasures. The first book is titled The Good Book, which one may perceive by its title to be a Religious writing, in actual fact it is a collection of many story’s and articles, written of the political times and emerging world times of Britain. There are biographical papers, historical papers, and social papers, and notable Government writers, adventurers on masted sailing ships, explorers and entrepreneurs. There are firsthand accounts of the times of Charles and Scotland’s history. One story continues as a series, called The Men of The Mosshags, these are the people of the moors who opposed the reigning King of the time. To read these stories’s one must try and decipher the language of Scotland way back then. Permit me to write a short paragraph for your perusal and interpretation, I find the language quite charming.

“ Mither ! mither!” he wailed, “ I aye telled ye it wad come to this—mockin’ Yon disna do. A wee while, maybe, He can bide his time, and juist when ye are crawin’ croose, and thinkin’ on how blithe and cantry ye are— blaff! Like a flaught o’fire—Yon comes upon ye, and where are ye?”

From the shelf of the forgotten words, I found two more books of antiquity that showed promise of historical entertainment and education.  Both books are titled Heaths Book of Beauty, one published in 1840 and the other 1844, the drawings are finished engravings and both edited by The Countess of Blessington. To imagining the era these books were written in, we will set the stage of the writers, they are mainly Ladies. Or the Honourable Mrs, a Countess, Lord so and so, numerous Sir’s and others of the bourgeoisie of those times of Britain, suffice to say the books were edited by a Countess. The contents of the books detail the daily lives and times of these titled rich people, lavish estates and dowry that ruled the country at the time, personal diaries of the love scenes between different titled nobility, these were the times of, I think they are called, Peri wigs and powdered faces on males, times of gala events like grand balls. Now having also read the works of Charles Dickens we can see the opposite of British England at that time, poverty rampant, the poor house a place of dread, the Hulks moored in the Thames awaiting the exportation of criminals to the land of exile, Australia.

Ahh, what a beautiful world we live in, that allows us to look back into our past, and our history, books are a treasure, read them and pass them on, for its knowing our past that we can face our future, and change that which is wrong.

Ps Just between you and me, I believe my ancestors may have had a passage to the new continent Australia, on one of those Hulks moored up the Thames.

Cheers and keep Smiling

The Emu


Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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39 responses to “The Keeper of The Tomes

    • aussieian2011

      October 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Excellent discovery gp, another case of a find from the war years, great recorded history by the Duncan family as well, no doubt it’s recovery will be in the media here, will certainly know more down the track.

      • GP Cox

        October 18, 2016 at 5:47 pm

        Keep a look-out!!

  1. Trinity

    September 12, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Love this post! I love old books, second-hand shops, and finding such treasures. Every time I travel to the UK (I live in Switzerland), I spend a good portion of time in such shops, and come home with far too many books (like that’s possible!).

    • The Emu

      September 12, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Hi Trinity, thanks for visiting and commenting, glad you enjoyed my story on old books, they are treasures to me, the older the better, you can never have too many books Trinity. I have another site where I write Love and Romance poetry, at the moment I am using beautiful old lithographs to illustrate my poetry, if you care to visit the link is,
      I look forward to following and enjoying your site.
      Aussie Ian aka Aussie Emu.

      • Trinity

        September 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm

        Thank you for the link – I checked it out, and am now following you there. 🙂
        How many books I have is only limited to space… and my library (where I also write my books – check out my links – on my Gravatar or on my profile – if you’re interested!) is full… some shelves are double-layered..! Some… that means there’s still room for more. 😉

        • aussieian2011

          September 12, 2016 at 1:15 pm

          Wow Trinity, looking at your site reminds me of wandering into that old musty smelling, hidden away book store in South Chile, books of all genre, one could spend hours wandering through the shelves in your site, a pleasure I look forward to.

          • Trinity

            September 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm

            That’s a huge compliment!! Thank you! Enjoy browsing – get a cuppa, put your feet up, and dig in…no closing hours! 😉

  2. Sue Dreamwalker

    July 29, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I know I am so late visiting this wonderful post Ian.. but I am so pleased I had the time this afternoon to savour the delights of your words. As you took me back throughout time and history to explain the conception of such books and how they came to be found in Chile my friend..
    Books have been my friends throughout life ever since my dear English teachers encouraged my development to read more as she shared her own personal library with me to help me with my then slow progress in reading and writing, spelling skills..
    And I can feel why you love such books.. Just running your hands across those well read pages and sensing the hands in which these books were held..
    Wonderful share my friend..
    Reading has been my saviour in life… and helped keep me sane.. 😉
    Love and Blessings to you and Ana..
    Sue ❤

    • The Emu

      July 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Sue, thanks for your beautiful comment, you have obviously captured my love for books, the older the better, rat eared or torn, so long as their condition tells just as good a story as the words written inside. I have been browsing your bountiful harvest from your allotment Sue, and envy overtakes my emotions once again. A bountiful and delectable harvest Sue.

      • Sue Dreamwalker

        July 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm

        It has been a good year.. everything maturing at once though.. so giving it away and storing it via freezing it .. So Happy you enjoyed.. As I did this Post Ian.

  3. Renee Espriu

    July 23, 2016 at 12:36 am

    I absolutely love books. I commend you for frequenting any and all bookstores as you happen upon them. Due to everything that happened last year I had to pair down my vast amount of books in order to move. It was difficult to part with them but I know that another lover of books will be able to read and admire all of their pages. Old book stores are the best. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

    • aussieian2011

      July 23, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Greetings Renee, so lovely to see you in my comments, do hope you and your family are in great health and enjoying life. Pleased you liked my story on books, I do certainly love books, the older the better, they really illustrate history, especially with first hand accounts.
      Kind regards and best wishes my friend.

  4. cat

    July 21, 2016 at 6:53 am

    My comment disappeared as usual …meouw … Anyway … me goin to Cuba in September … U need more cigars? Love, cat.

    • The Emu

      July 22, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Cat, your comments are here, I don’t think any go missing, I make sure cos I like to answer them all even if I am late, you lucky Girl heading of to Cuba again, you really do like that country, must be the gypsy in you coming out, I still have cigars left Girl, I keep them for special occasions, you are certainly enjoying your life and travels, definitely the itchy Gypsy feet, can never stand still, always dancing, keep well my Dear Friend and Love from Australia.

  5. cat

    July 21, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Me love books too … I mean real books, not e-books and all dat crap … have “imported” many of ma old books from Europe over the years … don’t look much at them, but feels good to have them near me … smiles … came across one the other day, which is very close to ma heart … Luise Rinser: Leave If You Can … cuz dats ma story … smiles … U havin a guuud winter down there, friend Ian? Me havin a very guuud summer up here … smiles … Anyway … write your story sum day, hmmm? Love U, cat.

    • The Emu

      July 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Will be checking out that book Cat, sounds like you can relate to it.Cheers.

  6. giselzitrone

    July 14, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Sehr schön Grüße und Umarmung Gislinde

  7. Colline

    July 12, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Nothing beats the smell of a bookstore. It is a space I enjoy browsing in.
    Thank goodness these days children are not labelled illiterate! Instead their learning disability is acknowledge and a plan is put into place for them to learn. Thank goodness you did not take the label to heart and showed, instead, that you had been misjudged.

    • aussieian2011

      July 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Hi Colline, thanks for the visit and comment, glad you enjoyed my story. Back in the late 60s in a Christian Brothers College, teaching was a very different form from today, as you say disabilities are recognised and programmes are set to help.

  8. GP Cox

    July 11, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I saw these two pictures and thought of your poetry!!

    • aussieian2011

      July 12, 2016 at 12:54 am

      Thanks gp, think I can use them down the track.

  9. prenin

    July 9, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Fantastic!!! 🙂

    I used to love reading books, but rarely read these days apart from on the web! 🙂

    My books were an escape route from life in the hands of my narcissistic and violent father and led to my becoming a programmer even though my father described me in his divorce deposition as mentally subnormal…. 😦

    Today I have a few books, but most of my reading is here on the web.

    Such is the way we advance… 🙂

    God Bless!


    • The Emu

      July 10, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Hi Prenin, I agree that most reading is done on the web these days, still I like to find relaxation in the written word. The web is certainly a great technology.

  10. derrickjknight

    July 8, 2016 at 11:19 am

    An entertaining and informative tome in itself, Ian

    • The Emu

      July 8, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Thank you Derrick for taking the time to visit and comment.
      Best wishes for a great weekend in your beautiful and captivating garden my Friend.

  11. wonkywizard

    July 8, 2016 at 12:49 am

    My classmate in Master in English was surprised that I nearly failed my SPM English; its the grammar test. In the past, I enjoyed visiting book shops for hours, but not now after the hard work of moving houses. De-cluttering books was a hard task.

    • The Emu

      July 8, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Hi WW, thanks for the visit and taking time to read my writings on books.
      I believe from your writing that you are quite fluent in English.
      I do admit that books are known to collect themselves after a time, and do tend to take up much space, still they are like old friends around me.
      Best wishes for a great weekend my Friend.

  12. suzjones

    July 8, 2016 at 12:30 am

    So nice to find another person who cannot walk past a bookstore without going in 🙂

    • The Emu

      July 8, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Thanks Sue, bookstores are a magnet to me, best wishes for a great weekend, hope you are faring well. Cheers.

  13. Peppermint

    July 8, 2016 at 12:04 am

    Great article and like Monica said I can hardly believe you classified as illiterate. You write so beautifully. I too have a love of books and I’ve got some old ones too. I used to read one book a day. Now my eyesight is not so good and I can’t read books much anymore. It’s a real loss to me until I get some new glassed. LOL!

    My favorites have always been the classics. And I love mystery books and thrillers.

    • The Emu

      July 8, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Hi Peppermint, thanks for the visit and comment, great to meet another person who enjoys good books and classics.
      I could not even beat your pace of one book a day, two or three days at the most is my best.
      I hope new glasses are not too far away in the future, for books are a great source of comfort.
      Kind regards and best wishes for a great weekend.

  14. GP Cox

    July 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    I really admire your love of books and your collecting.
    Why are armed guards necessary there? If crime is that bad, why can’t the government do something?

    • The Emu

      July 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Most housing estates have security on their entrances, all houses have high protected wall and windows with iron grille, crime is a very real problem as being a third world country there is no welfare system, I never wear jewellery when over there, and my camera spends a lot of time inside my coat, even on a hot day, a country like most South American countries where you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, Cheers gp.

      • GP Cox

        July 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm

        I would have thought things would have changed by now, but apparently not.

        • The Emu

          July 10, 2016 at 9:42 am

          It’s not till you actually see it gp, that you realise that some parts of the world are unsafe, I am certainly hyper alert when there but then again I have always been hyper alert since my Vietnam days.

          • GP Cox

            July 10, 2016 at 9:49 am

            I understand.

  15. Monica

    July 7, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    It’s hard – and shocking – to imagine you could have been classified as illiterate.


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