Book-Keepers I've Known - 23rd Nov. 1946


"Book-Keepers" I've Known: Text Version

23rd November 1946

(By An Mangaire Sugach)

A few times when I got the loan of somebody's bike, and returned it in a slightly different condition from that in which I fist received it, the owner took hold of it ever so gently, as if marvelling how it still managed to remain in one piece after such ill-treatment, and then looking at the bike, and not at me, he addressed to the battered machine the following remorseful remark:

"Never lend your bike to anyone, I always said it. But I won't be caught again, I tell you I won't."

To this golden rule of behaviour, I could add another: "Never lend a book;"

For, except in extraordinary circumstances you'll get your bike back; but except in the most extraordinary circumstances you'll never again see your book.


Now, I am quite prepared to lend any book I have if there is the slightest hope of getting it back. I have no objection if any one who has a book belonging to me sits down and makes a copy of it. You remember how long ago when books were very scarce, Columcille copied some scholar's manuscript; and when the scholar heard it he was furious. He had Columcille brought before the Breitheamh, who, when he heard the story, pronounced judgement as follows:-

"To every cow its calf; to every book its copy."

Columcille, in whose veins ran the proud royal of the O'Donnells, refused to hand up the copy he had transcribed with such pains and such patience and calling; and calling his supporters together he decided to contest the Breitheamh's judgement.


A great battle was fought over the book, wherin many were slain. When Columcille saw the outcome of his deed, he was overcome with remorse and sorrow, and, in atonement for the suffering he had caused, he went into voluntary exile to the barren island of Iona, off Scotland.

Now, as I've said before, I have no objection to people making a copy of any book I lend them. I don't want the calf; but I'd certainly like to see them drive home the cow some day. Six months, I should think, is long enough to give the average reader to read a book. If it doesn't turn up after that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark, and 'tis high time for you to feel anxious about your property.


There is many a man who has built up a fine library, but who, if every one had his own, would have a book-case or tow for sale. These kleptomaniacs resort to different practices to add to their stock. First, there is the more or less harmless fellow, who conveniently forgets altogether about the book you gave him, but who will hand it up on demand, with many apologies for his forgetfulness. There is the second type of fellow – a more dangerous type by far – who tells you that he left your book lying around, and that someone must have come and taken it, but that he'll make a thorough search for it. You can be sure, however, that it will never strike him to search his own bookshelves.


Comes class three, the gent who'll go to any rounds to persuade you he returned the book. Be on your guard against him. He is the worst type. The other two admit their liability to some extent. The third fellow holds on to your book, and not alone that, but also implies that you are a liar. As well as the specimens I've mentioned, there are those who cut useful notes out of books, when they are too lazy to copy them, who tear out pictures, and ill-use and damage books in a thousand and one ways. I know a librarian who once found a rasher between the pages of a book that had just been returned. Those were the good old days when rashers could be used for book-marks. Books from free libraries prove a great boon in many houses. They make excellent teapot stands, pipe lighters, jotters, etc., etc.


Before lending out books in future, I'll ask the borrower to bring along two solvent sureties, who are prepared to go security for him, in case any of my books disappear while in his possession. As well, I intend to impose a system of fines, starting six months after the issue of a book. Even with that my borrowers would be getting a good bargain. Not so very long ago I returned a book to the library. The day it was bought this book cost 2s. 8d. I had kept it out for a considerable period, and paid something like 3s. 6d. fines on it. It is surprising how quickly 2d. mounts up in geometric progression.


Many learned works have been written on book-keeping, that is, the business that deals with Dr. and Cr. And all that. Not even the most elementary lessons have ever been made available for that other kind of "book-keeping," of which I have spoken at some length. The reason is that it is simple to learn, and profitable, too. Advertisements appear every day for competent book-keepers. I often wonder why some of the people I know don't apply for the posts. They have been "book-keeping" since they could read, and are "book-keeping" still. What a wonderful recommendation you could write for any of them.


I hereby certify that – is an expert "book-keeper." He has ten books belonging to me fro the last eight years, and despite my best efforts to recover them, has managed to keep them ever since. A genuine, accomplished "book-keeper."

previousPrevious - The Merry Pedlar - 13th Oct. 1945
Next - Books And Bachelors - 1st Jan. 1949next