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Books, before 1985

I had a horse phase when I was young - books, Breyer horses, summer camp, riding lessons, but definitely books. I collected the Marguerite Henry novels, some new, some - out of print - in ex-library editions. My sister joined in the phase and our parents treated us to family holidays over several summers to the island of Chincoteague and to a primo Palio, a practice horse race in Siena before the real Palio. The Palio trip was inspired by one of those ex-library copies, of an out-of-print Henry novel, Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio. Alibris tells me that it was published in 1960 and reprinted in 1967. I don't know which copy I had.

We outgrew the horse phase and eventually I went off to university. My parents gave away my horse books to a young woman, horse-crazy then and horse-crazy still today. It's the only time they've done that, that I know of, given away my books. It was for a good cause, although I felt and sometimes feel nostalgic about them. All those books. All my books. And it was fine, since I haven't felt it urgent to reread them since, although I think about them now and again.

I've been thinking about those books this week.

See, last month, a law came into effect in the US, a good-intentioned law, intended to keep lead toys out of the mouths of children. It applies retroactively, however, and unless a seller pays for the tests - cumulatively expensive - to ensure that an object obviously intended for children is lead-free (if produced in a time when this was a danger), then that seller may not longer sell or give away those products in the US. The law was written for toys, but applies to children's books too - and lead ink was used to print books up until 1985. This means that it's probably no longer legal to sell or give away any children's book in the US printed before 1985 (unless testing is done).

Thrift stores. Second-hand book dealers. Already, faced with unusable stock, a number of them have been stock-dumping, throwing away their supplies to avoid the risk of having a substantial financial penalty slapped on them. The American Library Association is apparently claiming themselves exempt right now, but even if they're allowed to get away with it, they'll still have problems in disposing of books which would previously have been sold off. The relevant enforcement agency has already said it will delay enforcement until February of next year, but stores are already, following official recommendations, getting rid of those books.

This isn't just a danger to the world's residual stock of Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio (which was, after all, printed in the US and primarily sold there so far as I know). It's a danger is all US stocks of pre-1985 children's books from anywhere at all.

One consolation is that there will certainly be some stock of most of these books which will have ended up in other countries. But it isn't legal for US holders of such books to sell or give those books away, domestically or internationally, if at all obviously intended for children. (Collectors are okay, but hard to prove.)

Articles here and here. Alert from sammywol.

In other scare-mongering news, the Roquefort tax tripling in the US has been postponed for a month.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
pittenweem
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
King of the Wind remains one of my favorite children's books. Though I loved Misty and the stories about her, the story of KotW appealed to me more for some reason.
owlfish
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
At this distance, I'm sorry to say I don't even know which my favorite was. I was using Gaudenzia as an example mostly because I knew I had a pre-1985 copy if, when I got it, it was a well-used ex-library copy. Still, off-hand, I can't locate a printing of King of the Wind from after 1984 - but it had a whole lot of reprints along the way! (Probably thanks to the movie. I didn't know there were Marguerite Henry-based movies!)

Edited at 2009-03-19 11:20 pm (UTC)
owlfish
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Not at all related, but if you haven't seen this video, you really should: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2FX9rviEhw
stormwindz
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
This sounds like it really will be devastating :(:(
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)
I really, really hope it doesn't go through as currently forecast.
a_d_medievalist
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh, my ... I'm not sure which was my fave, although I think it was probably King of the Wind ... the beginning where the horse's boy is fasting for Ramadan, the cat that sleeps on the horse's back, and their adjustments to like in England ... You know, I think that was probably my first exposure to a Muslim character? I must have been about 8.

OTOH, how thrilling when Farfalla got chosen -- by the Wave, wasn't it? and the scary image of the mattresses up on the walls around the piazza? Ooh -- first exposure to Italian, too!

Sorry -- the funny thing is I actually liked Fairfax Downey's horse books even better.
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)
Up until your comment, I was thinking I didn't need to reread any of these. Now, I might...
henchminion
Mar. 20th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Wow, those titles bring me back. My favorite was Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West. I seem to have missed Gaudenzia entirely. It must not have been in my local or school libraries.
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:05 am (UTC)
With only two editions of Gaudenzia only in the '60s vs. reprints of Mustang at least until 1998, your odds of encountering the latter were much higher!
intertext
Mar. 20th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Oh, I loved Marguerite Henry! But I never encountered Gaudenzie either - I had Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West and the Chincoteague books... and King of the Wind of course. I also liked the one about the fox...
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
I think Gaudenzia must have been one of the more obscure, given how many editions most of her other books went through - and that one only had two.
(Deleted comment)
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
I'm glad you were able to make do.
(Deleted comment)
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
So THAT'S why your toe is always broken.
jennybeast
Mar. 20th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
ALA is trying to get congress to declare an exception for libraries, at least, and children's books in general if at all possible. It's a big scary thing. Fortunately, I think that even if they do manage to enforce it, there are significant special collections of children's materials all over the country that should be immune -- so hopefully our old favorites won't be destroyed entirely, just, you know, made inaccessible. :P
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
And eventually, the better part of a century from now, they would be out-of-copyright and reproducable in safe ink again so long as copyright isn't extended still further.

But it would be so much easier to just have an out for books, or at least for library books.
a_d_medievalist
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
or maybe teach kids not to eat books and wash their hands before and after reading?
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
Mm. Tasty books.
rymenhild
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
What awful and ridiculous stupidity. D:
printperson
Mar. 20th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Are you sure that we gave away the books? There are immense numbers of your books on your bookshelves and in boxes in the basement.
owlfish
Mar. 20th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
You told me you did over the phone and I haven't seen them since. They went to the Eckhouses. Of cours, I haven't gone looking, having been told they weren't there; but they aren't anywhere obvious if they are.
zcat_abroad
Mar. 21st, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
I, too, was an avid reader of horse books, but don't know of any of these. On the other hand, there was the Australian set of "The Silver Brumby", "The Silver Brumby's Daughter" etc. which I loved to bits.

And I still wish I had had the chance to grow up on a farm and go to gymkhanas and just ride everywhere. In my next life, perhaps?
moon_custafer
Mar. 21st, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
I'd heard about this via the craft community (also affected by this - anyone making stuff for kids has to send all materials for testing at their own expense); but hadn't thought about the old-books implications. Aargh.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )