Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lakeside Classics

Readers know that I’m an avid history reader and my personal preference is towards American Western and Southwestern history. I’m always on the lookout for a good read in this area.

About six or seven years ago I was surfing online looking for something different to read about Colorado history. I came upon a book entitled “Uncle Dick Wooten” published by the R. R. Donnelley Company. The write-up indicated it was part of the Lakeside Classic series. I bought it.

When it arrived the first thing I noticed was it’s size. The description online indicated that is was “octavo” size. When I opened the package I was delighted to find a hardcover book that was about 4” x 7”. I was traveling extensively at the time and the smaller size was great for taking on airplanes. Even better, it was normal print size in a smaller book. Both my luggage and my eyes were happy. It was all around just a real “handsome” book. Professionally done with gilt edges on the top side of the pages.

The content was just what I was looking for. A first person historical narrative. One person that had a place in history, telling me, the reader, his story directly. Man o man, I enjoyed that book and immediately wondered if I could find any more like it?

After a little research I discovered that I had stumbled onto the mother lode of American historical narratives. R. R. Donnelley Company has been producing the Lakeside Classic series for 105 years now. Only one book is released each year and it is given away to customers, friends and employees of the company at Christmas time. You can’t just go to a book store and buy these things new.

Between the years 1903 and 1910 most of the books were reprints of memorable speeches by famous Americans. Starting in 1911 the books were all first person historical narratives by pioneers, frontiersmen, explorers, cowboys, WW I Aces, and much more. Most of the titles were either long out of print or in some cases previously unpublished manuscripts so the content wasn’t something you were likely to bump into in your favorite book store.

It only took that very first book to hook me forever on the Lakeside Classics. I now own thirty of the 104 books of the series. I’ll buy two or three at a time when I can find them, and normally buy two of the newer editions and one of the older editions to try and keep the price reasonable. The newer editions sell used for $10 - $20 each. The very first ones can be very expensive. The oldest volume I have is the 1929 volume “Kendall’s Texan Santa Fe Expedition” which I think cost about $45. Currently I’m reading the 1941 volume, “Army Life in Dakota, Selections from the Journal of Philippe Regis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand”.

It would be nice to have the complete set one day but it’s not necessary. Each book is a collection of it’s own. The collection of historical memories by the person that experienced the events. That is “way cool”.

Thanks for visiting.

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