LSU book sale offers more than 60,000 titles

It’s the smell of leather bindings and crisp pages worn soft by readers’ hands, of glue gone brittle with time and ink rusting away its paper.

It’s the smell of knowledge, and it hits you hard when you walk through the door at the Friends of the LSU Libraries book barn on River Road.

“We’ve got everything in here,” Anne West, book barn and book bazaar chairwoman, says as she deftly navigates towers of books to be hauled across campus for the Friends’ annual book bazaar, slated for March 20-22.

The unassuming blue metal building sandwiched between the hulking mass of the Mississippi River levee and the fields of the Vet School doesn’t give a hint about the wealth inside. If we’re honest, neither does a first glance inside at the endless piles of books.

But West knows all the titles in her care. She zips from shelf to table to box during a tour, rattling off topics, categories and genres. Textbooks, mysteries, histories, spiritual, children’s, New Age, cookbooks. The Friends will bring more than 60,000 books to this year’s bazaar.

“We have a lot more Civil War than we’ve ever had,” says West, pausing near what appears to be a mammoth pile of books that’s sprouted four spindly legs.

Some books of a history professor from the University of Southern Mississippi will be sold, as will some belonging to former LSU professor Charles Royster.

One of the Civil War books available is “The Confederate Soldier in the Civil War,” published in 1897. The red book with gleaming gold lettering is in “pristine” condition, West says, and it will be auctioned along with a 1901 LSU Gumbo (yearbook) and “The United States Army and Navy Journal, and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Forces. Vol. I — 1863-’64.”

Collector’s items all, West expects them to earn the Friends a pretty penny. But she stresses that even though some of the prices may seem extravagant, she makes sure to price her treasures lower than market value.

“The collector’s table starts at $2.50,” she says.

That’s not to say the Friends haven’t had have some very rare and very valuable books in the bazaar.

“I sold a Hays Town preliminary sketches,” she says. “It sold for $1,000.”

She’s come across more than one first edition Hemingway in the boxes of donated books, and some of those sell for thousands.

This year, one treasured book is back for a second time around. A woman purchased the 1895 copy of the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” several years ago for $450. Her research done, she donated it back to the Friends. It will be offered for sale again, West says, but with a lower price as more of them are on the market now.

West will also bring a set of rare pamphlets from the 1860s; a complete set of Thackeray with leather spines and corners and vivid marble boards; a signed book by Irish mystery writer Ken Bruen; and a gorgeous showpiece of the Cartier Collection of jewelry.

“I thought last year was wonderful,” West says, pausing beside a table with collectable books laid out and waiting for pricing. “But this year … .”