Monday, June 15, 2009

Trees and Shrubs of the Rocky Mountain Region

In our neighborhood, for as long as I can remember (which is a while, I’ve lived here more than 40 years), we have had two first-class used book stores. My favorite is Powell’s (of their three Chicago stores, ours is pictured on their Web site). Over the years I’ve sold them plenty of books. May whoever bought them enjoy them in good health!

One of KLK’s and my favorite routines is to have dinner at the Caffè Florian, across the street, and then to visit Powell’s before they close. He disappears into the rabbit hole of the basement where the science fiction paperbacks live. I head straight for the back corner where the nature volumes and “westernalia” can be found. They always have an oddly wide-ranging offering of bird guides: Birds of Western Africa, Costa Rican Waterfowl, Backyard Birds of Britain, A History of Falconry, Sibley’s Guide to Birds…an ever-changing selection of newer and older books of greater or lesser interest. I’ve also picked up some good resources on Yellowstone and western history there. But just like shopping at Filene’s Basement, it’s always hit-or-miss, making good finds all the sweeter.

Frustrated with the terrible (awful) photos in my Shaw’s Plants of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, last Friday I extended my search to flora to see if someone had given up for sale something more useful to me. I pulled off the shelf a little green volume, “Trees and Shrubs of the Rocky Mountain Region” by Burton O. Longyear. I could see from the spine that it was a hardback but as a little book (just 6¾ x 4 x 1 inch thick) I thought it might make a handy field guide nonetheless. But as soon as I pulled it off the shelf and opened it I could see that it was special. Indeed, though it is in very-nearly perfect condition, it is a 1927 original. How it survived all these years in pristine shape I can’t imagine.

In fact the “One Hundred and Twenty-eight Pen Drawings by the Author” are very nice, maybe even good enough for definitive identification out there in the woods. Also among Trees and Shrubs’ charms are the nine colored plates. There’s no comment in the book about how the colored images were created, that is, by tinting traditional grayscale photographs, or from color film originals (or other options I know little of). They look a little odd, with plenty of green leaves and brown trunks, and very pale, low contrast skies and clouds. Nonetheless, they’re pleasingly vibrant after 82 years (unlike some people I know).

And inside the back cover are the final sweet treats: hand-written is the original price, 1.00. Next to it, Powell’s price, 10.00. According to, one 1927 dollar is worth 12.30 2008 dollars, so it was a bargain then and now. And at the bottom of the page is a modest, pretty little green sticker (in original condition, I might add) that says, in tiny print:

Ruth Silliman ● Carol Truax
Their Book Shop
5 Pikes Peak Avenue
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Nice, too, to know there were women shop owners, and proud of it, back in 1927. Their shop, indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment