COLLECTING COMMUNITY HISTORIES DIFFICULT (January 23/12)

I collect locally written, locally published history books, in particular those written about Kings County communities.  With a bit of luck and patience I’ve managed to collect most of the local histories that have been published.

A few have eluded me, however.  I’ve had problems finding one in particular.  I know this book is out there and it went into a second edition, but all copies seem to have vanished.

Well, not exactly “vanished,” and not exactly all copies.  Somewhere, probably in attics, on dusty bookshelves, in boxes of discarded books stored in closets and sheds, are numerous copies of this book.  I can even tell you where several copies of the history can be found; but as they say, they “ain’t for sale.”

Recently I was able to add this history to my collection, but only after more than a decade of searching for it.  Grist from the Mills, the Sheffield Mills history, is the book I’m speaking of.  Thanks to an Internet search, and after checking every book dealer website in Canada and the U.S. I found a copy close to home, at a shop on Barrington Street in Halifax.  At this point I remind readers who collect books, new and old, to check the website of ABE Books.  This is the best website on the Internet when it comes to finding out-of-print books in any genre you’re interested in.

But back to Grist From The Mills.  The committee that produced this book, the Sheffield Mills Women’s Institute, did excellent work.  For details and historical interest, this book rates as one the best in community histories. Along with the Port Williams history, The Port Remembers and Greenwich Times, the Greenwich history, this book stands out for research and writing.   The book captures the origin and essence of old time Sheffield Mills.  In the book, for example, is the story of the early mills in the community; this was researched and written by a local historian, the late Ernest Eaton.

It took almost as long to add a few other out-of-print community history books to my collection as it did Grist From The Mills.  A few were difficult to find as well.   If you have a copy of Edythe Quinn‘s history of Greenwich, which I mentioned above, you should treasure it.  While the book has no great monetary value (I purchased a copy for $10) copies are impossible to find and have to be considered as rare.

While there undoubtedly are plenty of copies around somewhere, The Port Remembers is another local history that’s elusive.  The same goes for Anne Hutten’s excellent history of the apple industry, Valley Gold.  This is another book that’s hard to find.  I have two copies in my collection, one purchased for $2 at a yard sale, another for $10 from a book dealer who probably didn’t realise how rare this book is.

Most of the community histories I’ve collected have no great monetary value.  Their real value lies in the records they’ve preserved, for posterity, as they say.  But for the efforts of individual writers and the efforts of community clubs and organizations in writing and compiling these history books, many of these records may have been lost.

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