Thrifty Thursday is a feature started by Sal over at Motion Sick Lit (an excellent book blog – go check it out here). Thrifty Thursday goes like this:
- Post or talk about a used book you’ve found.
- The book must cost less than $5.
- Weird or strange books are preferred.
In my last Thrifty Thursday post I called myself “the thriftiest thrift that ever thrifted” because I got my book for free. But I out-thrifted myself for this post, getting not one, but two used books for free. Both of them are travel books written by the great French writer, Alexandre Dumas, titled Alexandre Dumas’ Adventures in Spain and Alexandre Dumas’ Adventures in Caucasia. I received them for my birthday last month from my sister, who picked them up at a second-hand bookstore in Sydney. I was really excited to get these because as much as I love reading Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo is at the top of my list of favourite books ever), I had no idea that he wrote anything other than fiction. But do these books meet the (sort of) official Thrifty Thursday requirements?
Under $5? Yes! They were a gift which = free for me.
Is it weird? Um, I don’t think so. But these are both travel books from the 1800s written by a man who wrote adventure novels, so maybe they’ll get a little weird and over the top at some point. If this quote about his fictional work is anything to go by,
“Considerations of probability or historical accuracy generally were ignored, and the psychology of the characters was rudimentary. Dumas’s main interest was the creation of an exciting story set against a colourful background of history, usually the 16th or 17th century”¹,
it’s highly likely that Dumas will have livened up his own adventures.
I learned some really interesting things (which will not likely be news to anyone else) about Dumas while doing some googling for this post. His writing career actually began in the theatre in the early 1800s, before he turned his attention to the writing of historical fiction; so he was a prolific playwright before he was a prolific novelist. Also, I discovered that he often collaborated with other writers on his projects. Foremost of these was Auguste Maquet, who co-wrote many of Dumas’ most famous novels, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers amongst them. This article about the 2010 film L’Autre Dumas (The Other Dumas), a film about the relationship between Dumas and Maquet, gives a good overview of the debate surrounding how much work Maquet actually did (and what that work actually consisted of).
Interestingly, Maquet was one of Dumas’ travelling companions for the journey set down in Adventures in Spain (obviously well before the events described in the article – there was a court case and everything). This trip came about after Dumas’ first travelogue, Travels in Switzerland, caused a rise in the numbers of French tourists travelling to Switzerland; so the Minister of Public Instruction asked Dumas if he would travel to Algeria to write about that country too, as it had just come under French control and the Minister was “anxious that Frenchmen should become better informed”² about the country. Dumas’ royal patron, the Duke of Montpensier, was due to be married in Spain at around the same time, so he suggested Dumas travel to Algeria via Spain in order to attend the wedding; an invitation that Dumas obviously accepted because now we have a book all about his travels through Spain. Basically, Dumas was influencing people’s travel destinations long before ‘Lonely Planet’ was a thing.
Adventures in Spain and Adventures in Caucasia were published in 1959 and 1962 respectively; however they were both originally published in the mid 1800s, each of them going over multiple volumes which have been heavily abridged. The two books I have are First American Editions (it says so inside), which probably isn’t that significant (maybe it is – I don’t know), but put the words “first” and “edition” together in a sentence and it just makes the book that little bit more special. At some point they called a library home, with the final library stamp in both being dated “25 Sep 1971”. As they are US editions I’m guessing they were probably in a US library, and I like to imagine that whoever borrowed these books on September 25, 1971, skipped the country shortly after with books in tow, eventually ending up in Australia (I have dubbed this person, ‘The Book Bandit’).
The books are pretty well-worn, with most of the gold writing on the spines having rubbed off over the decades. I really love the patterned boards that make the front and back covers, and I’m kind of happy that the dust jackets for both books are missing, as I think the brown spine contrasting with the patterns are much nicer (I found some pictures of the dust jackets and they’re not the best looking – they’re here and here if you’re interested). An odd thing I noticed in Adventures in Caucasia, is that the name of the book on the spine and title page is different to what’s printed at the top of the rest of the pages, which says “Adventures in the Caucasus”. This, according to the publication info page, is the title the book was published under in England and this edition was actually printed in Britain (rather than the US like Adventures in Spain); so I’m guessing the publishers got slack and just stuck US covers and title pages onto English editions.
My goal now is to get the entire collection of Dumas’ travel books, one of which is actually titled Adventures With My Pets, which sounds like it would be delightful.
Have you found any interesting second-hand books lately? Or just a weird/interesting book in general?
¹ Encyclopaedia Britannica
² Alexandre Dumas’ Adventures in Spain