Book Review

Sehepunkte is on the verge of publishing another one of my reviews, of Stephen Justice, Adam Usk’s Secret (Penn, 2015). The link takes you to the preview site (UPDATE 11/20: it’s now officially published.) 

Something annoying happened in the course of writing this review. Two editions of Usk’s chronicle have been published, one by Edward Maunde Thompson in 1876, and another by Chris Given-Wilson in 1997. I ordered both of these through interlibrary loan and, once I returned them, thought that I should buy Given-Wilson’s for my collection. I discovered a copy for a very reasonable price being offered on Amazon by Big River Books of Powder Springs, Georgia. Once it arrived I discovered just why it was so cheap: it was stolen property! It had clearly been checked out of Burling Library at Grinnell College and not returned. The bookplate, card pocket, bar code were all there, with no indication that it had been deaccessioned. Grinnell confirmed that it was indeed theirs; Big River Books claimed that they bought it fair and square from a USPS undeliverable mail auction. But assuming that story is true, surely any reputable bookseller should have be able to perceive instantly what I perceived when I got the book. So my recommendation to you: avoid Big River Books!

(I returned it to Grinnell. Amazon – not BRB – reimbursed me for it.)

Here is a graphic from the cover of Thompson’s edition, of the badge that Usk adopted for himself: a naked man digging in a black field, in Justice’s words a “fallen Adam condemned to labor in a world that has faded to black.”

usk