Longevity in Antiques and Writing

According to Wikipedia, an antique is something “collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society.”

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Nobody could ever call me a collector of antiques. I’ve never been one to frequent second hand stores or antique galleries. I’m not big on old furniture, although I do have a few pieces, precious only because they’re connected to a bit of our family history.

My grandmother’s ninety-five year old Singer sewing machine went from her home to my parents’, then was transferred to their northern residence where lack of electricity meant its treadle mechanism was useful. It hasn’t been used in years, but now belongs to one of my daughters, the only real seamstress in our family, who appreciates its historic value.

I don’t do a lot of sewing, but I have a small sewing machine that serves my mending needs and helps me make the occasional set of curtains.

There are lots of added sophistications on newer machines, but in nearly one hundred years, the basic principle of a needle and a series of loop stitches being used to close a seam hasn’t changed much.

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Some things never change. Storytelling has been going on since the beginning of mankind. I did a search on the oldest known novel and found several claims. One suggested THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH as the oldest written story, dating to somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BC. Another said the oldest English novel is PIERS PLOWMAN written in the early 1300s AD.

One thing is clear; people have been captivated by stories of mystery and intrigue, mythology, the supernatural, and family sagas for centuries. Those of us with a yearning to record or invent stories of our own are simply carrying on the tradition.

We may not scratch hieroglyphics into stone, or carefully pen words on papyrus, but we nevertheless place words on some kind of more modern vehicle so they may be conveyed to others. Our efforts link us to history, not in the tools we use but in a creative desire common to generations before us.

I started this by saying I’m not an antique collector, but I must admit to a fascination with old books. I don’t look for first editions or pristine copies, but just like to bring home the occasional “old” volume discovered at a church garage sale. I mentioned some of them in a blog post here. The oldest fiction (actually, I’ve realized it’s more of a memoir) I’ve encountered is an 1834 edition of R. H. Barham’s THE INGOLDSBY LEGENDS.

I also have a relative’s handwritten diary dating back to 1881. It’s not fiction, but when I read of monthly wages of $24, and that a church social raised $14.69 less a dollar for tea and sugar, to help pay for the circuit preacher, it sounds far fetched to my modern ear! I wonder if anything I’ve written will still be around 132 years from now, and what people then will think of my monthly income. 

Do you like antique hunting? Not counting the Bible, can you name the oldest book you’ve read?

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