Five minutes later, I walked out with a fine, first edition (1935) of William T. Innes' Exotic Aquarium Fishes. Pre-WWII editions are extremely rare, and I've been looking for one for many years. I have the version published right after the war, which is uncommon and still follows the same format, but I've never been able to get my hands on one published earlier. The copy I've had for the past several years is faded, the green faux-leather binding worn and the spine cracking, but it is one of my most prized books.
It's really a work of art. Innes used species descriptions and articles from his magazine "The Aquarium," to write it, and his signature hand-colored plates spice up the otherwise colorless illustrations: B&W photos were painstakingly painted to show the fish as they appeared in life. Color photos were sporadically used, but that technology was not so impressive in those days.
Innes' writing, too, is a kick. He writes of an uncommon livebearing fish, Pseudoxiphophorus bimaculatus: "The female, twice as large as the male, usually vents her temper on him, with fatal results. Perhaps she has more sense than most fishes and realizes the trouble he causes her." Clearly, Innes' views on gender issues were ahead of the times. :D
Huh. You walk into an antique store you've never seen before, on a whim, on your way back to the office, and you walk out with the first edition of a book you've wanted for years.
The woman at the counter liked my hair. I told her my girlfriend talked me into growing it out, and she responded "She's a good influence on you!"