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21 February 2010
  J.R.R. Tokens
Minneapolis, unlike Laredo, has bookstores, and near my house is one I'd been meaning to visit ever since I moved. Book Trader, at 5344 34th Ave S (google street view).

I'm so glad to have finally made it there. It's an incense-scented, treasure-flush D&D dungeon of a library with an MPR soundtrack. Like any used bookstore of esteem, its shelves have overflowed into the narrow aisles that twist from room to room. The shop's new sign accurately adds "and Curiosity Shop" to its name: a miscellany of strange antiques that mostly fall under the category of "toys and household items" lies sprinkled among the books. Unfortunately, a revolting collection of taxidermy does too. This is largely made up for by the fact that a big Millenium Falcon, a 70-year-old infant rectal syringe, and an original copy of a U.S. Congress bill from the 1930s can all be picked up in a single shopping trip.

When I visit used bookstores, I tend to peruse the Tolkien section in search of unusual goodies. This was the first time it really paid off though! I left with a knapsack's worth of relics.

The first item is a four-volume set of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, living in an ooh-shiny gold foil case decorated with heraldic devices from The Silmarillion. It is the Ballantine Books "Silver Jubilee Edition," published in 1981 upon the 25th anniversary of the publication of The Return of the King's first U.S. edition.

The second item is "A Tolkien Bestiary" by David Day (1979). It's been criticized for having details deviating from Tolkien's works, but it's hard to complain about something with such lovely illustrations.



But the Nauglamír of my haul is a set of three of the earliest Tolkien calendars, from 1976-1978. These were the three years that the calendars featured the illustrations of the Brothers Hildebrandt. They're quite well done, though a bit Disneyish. All of them are in pristine condition, and the 1977 and 1978 ones still have their original cardboard mailers. Actually, 1976 was hiding in the back of 1977's mailer, unbeknownst to the shopkeeper (I did point it out and pay for it). 1978's mailer also contains order forms for Star Trek and Tarzan books.





Finally, the other day at Dreamhaven I picked up a small poster. It advertises a 1987 exhibition of drawings from The Hobbit at Oxford, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the book's publication. It may or may not be an original, since prints are still being made and sold online, but either way, I love it.

 


08 July 2009
  The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode ...
I did some research on the old beer bottle mentioned in the previous post.

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According to the Society for Historical Archaelogy's bottle dating guide (see Question #2), the fact that the bottle has a seam that does not extend through the "finish" (mouth) indicates that it was handmade (mouth-blown). Typically that means pre-1915, too.

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The bottle has a faint "S B & G Co" embossed along the base. That marking was used by the Streator Bottle and Glass Company of Streator, Illinois from 1881 until 1905, when they merged with another company.

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Its ceramic cap is a Hutter stopper (looks just like the cylindrical one in the photo halfway down). They were invented in 1893 and used until 1920, when Prohibition began. 1893 also happens to have been the year when Pabst's main beer won the "America's Best" prize at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and was renamed "Pabst Blue Ribbon."

So, hand-made between 1893 and 1905! My house's land was purchased by Franklin Steele from the federal government in the 1850s, and was part of larger parcels from then until 1927, just before the house was built. Perhaps the bottle was reused for a couple decades before being discarded by one of the first occupants of the new house. Or maybe it was tossed into a farm's junk pile around the turn of the century.
 


05 July 2009
  Antiques Roadshow: Subterranean Edition
Having finally finished the removal of several cubic yards of concrete from my back yard, I'd like to share some of the flotsam and jetsam that was adrift in the earth beneath.

Here are a couple larger bottles. The one on the right is a beer bottle labeled "Pabst Milwaukee," and its cap is ceramic and held on by a metal clasp.
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Medium-sized bottles.
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Loads of small bottles, including a couple teeny ones. The smallest was resting upright with a glass stir-rod still inside.
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Here are a couple close-ups of the middle bottle in the picture on the left above.
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At first I thought that it said "3ii" (with a very stylized three) on the back -- perhaps a brand name. But the graduation along the side has that same "3" coming right after "1." The "1" corresponds roughly to the 30cc mark on the other side. It turns out that 30cc is about one ounce, and the apothecary symbol for ounces is:

So "℥ii" just means it's a two-ounce bottle.

Spoons, a small ceramic pot, and the broken end of a light bulb with a tiny unbroken internal glass bulb.
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Frying pan with mixed greens; assorted metallic thingies. The horseshoe tells us that most of these items probably do not predate the introduction of horses to North America in the 16th century.
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Early Minnesota throwing star (shuriken).
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There was even a bottle (not to mention a concrete block) embedded in this tree stump.
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The infamous section of yard with and without the concrete.
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