I have a thing about old, theoretically useless, books. I adore them. I can’t help it. If you give me a set of 1950′s science texts I will cherish them forever (I have a great one though so gimmie something else).
There’s something about old information that gets me. Information that is out of date and since been proven wrong, specifically. Even social info that is sadly racist and sexist and Western biased is interesting to me. Not when it’s done now or modern but when it was an accepted thing to do there’s something to be learned from reading those old texts and seeing how a lot of people thought and passed information along and how they imagined the world to be actually shaped.
It’ if nothing else, keeps me on my toes. Everything I know might well be wrong. A lot of it generally is. But it is also frequently handed over as The Truth and looking at scores of old Truths that aren’t True reminds me that information is fluid and being adaptable is the key. I have to try to not hold anything so tightly that it can’t be put aside for an idea that provably, for it’s time, more correct.
And so I will hunt old books and strange texts because I can’t help it. If I had enough space and money I would want a complete set of World Almanacs, for example. I have like 10 or 12 I think (I used to have more, and I lose some every move so I may only have like three by now) because wow they’re great.
They also allow for strange connections and browsing. The internet is bad for browsing. You have to be looking for a thing to find it, most times. Not a hard rule but a general reality. With an Almanac you just flip it open and find stuff.
Recently I scored on the dirt cheap a complete set Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. This is an 11 volume set of more than 10,000 pages of history. Written from the 30s to the 70s. It’s a bit… biased. It was also their life’s work. They died with it unfinished (it was supposed to go up until early 19th century and stops at Napoleon (published the year I was born). That’s worth respect. And yeah, it leans badly but man it is endlessly fascinating.
Old information is just as revealing as new information if you learn how to look.