Well, it was bound to happen eventually… the fabled Bennion Archive has finally outgrown its physical domain and I’ve had to make the difficult decision to start letting things go for the sake of reclaiming my modest living space. I’ve actually been in the process of that for over a year now, quietly selling off books and other small items on Amazon Marketplace (go here if you’d like to peruse what I’ve currently got in the inventory). I’ve had some degree of success with that, but I’ve also found that Amazon isn’t always the best option, depending on what exactly you’re trying to sell. So I’m exploring some other venues, including the direct approach, i.e., pitching certain items to my Loyal Readers here on Simple Tricks and Nonsense. I hope you’ll forgive me for going commercial on you; I promise the items I mention here will be things I think may be of interest to my audience, and I promise as well not to do it very often.
So, that said, the first item up in the Giant Liquidation Sale is an 11-volume set of books comprising the complete Diary of Samuel Pepys. (That’s pronounced “peeps,” for you non-English majors out there.)
If you’re not familiar with Pepys, he’s a pretty fascinating guy. I first discovered him and his famous diary in a college course on the English Restoration, the time period immediately after the British monarchy regained control from the Cromwells. It was an exciting, high-spirited time in Britain following several decades of Puritan repression. Theaters were reopened (the Puritans had had them shuttered), and the immensely popular, extremely bawdy plays they hosted would later be recognized as a distinct genre, the Restoration comedy. Women were allowed to perform onstage for the first time, social restrictions of all kinds were loosened, and there must’ve been a sense in the air that history was sweeping Britain along at immense speed toward the destiny of Empire.
As a dashing young man-about-town working for the Admiralty, Samuel Pepys was in the ideal position to witness history firsthand, and his diary is today considered a prime historical source on many notable events, particularly the Great Plague that killed 20% of London’s population in 1665-66 and the Great Fire that destroyed much of the city in 1666. But Pepys wrote about far more than the news of the day. He wrote about pretty much everything: gossip about the high-ranking people he crossed paths with, affairs of state, his own wenching and carousing, his health complaints, his marriage, the plays he saw, the coffeehouses and taverns he frequented, the whole tapestry of 17th century London. It’s fascinating, invaluable material if you’re at all interested in the period.
So, you may be wondering, if this diary is so endlessly fascinating, then why am I selling my copy of it? It all comes down to my number-one complaint: a lack of time. When I bought this set several years back, I had a lot of grandiose ideas. I had it in my head that I was a Literary Fellow not too different from Pepys himself, that I would someday own a vast library lined with built-in oak bookshelves that would be stuffed with thousands of volumes on all sorts of arcane subjects, which I would then read while sitting in a wine-colored wingback chair, wearing a favorite cardigan and smoking a pipe. You know, something like this. I imagined also that I would have time to take advantage of such a library. Well… you all can guess how that’s turned out. I haven’t smoked my pipe in years and my library is all in banker’s boxes that are kept in a cold, dark basement. I don’t own a wingback chair, and I don’t think I’m even all that literary anymore, to be honest. If I ever was. As interesting as I found that class on the Restoration, I’ve always preferred convenience-store pulp novels to the books my high-school teacher Mr. Bridge used to call “literature with a capital L.” And then there’s the matter of how much time I have at my disposal these days…
Basically, I’ve just realized that I’m not likely to ever read these books, so I’m hoping to get them into the hands of somebody who will. And who has the space to store books that I increasingly do not.
As I said, this is an 11-volume set of trade paperbacks that includes the complete text of Pepys’ diary, spanning the ten-year period 1660 to 1669, as well as a book-length index and a companion. They were published by the University of California Press in 2000, and are brand-new, still in their factory shrinkwrap, just as you see them in the picture above. I’d like to sell them as a complete set, and I’m asking $50 for the lot, a real bargain considering each volume lists for $28.95 on Amazon. If anyone reading this is interested, just shoot me a message at jason-at-jasonbennion.com (you know, of course, to replace “-at-” with “@”, right?). If you live in the Salt Lake area, we can arrange a face-to-face exchange; if you’re someplace else, let’s talk about shipping…