I've been browsing Abebooks for the past few months, looking for falling-apart, pre-1922 books that I can use in my art. It's a great way to buy used books--I've had lots of success purchasing out-of-print books for my dad at very reasonable prices.I'm especially interested in dictionaries since I'm kind of a 'word person,' and 19th century dictionaries are fun to read, coming as they did before the advent of the truly modern dictionary. Many of them use a form of the word they are defining in the definition (and that's a big no-no, as we all remember from sixth grade vocabulary tests!)
A couple of months ago, while browsing, I found a German Lexicon that was published in 1751! It had been damaged in a fire at some point, but the man who had it was actually using it as a reference book. He'd found an undamaged copy, and was about to chuck this one into the recycling bin, but decided someone else might want it. I got it for a dollar plus the cost of shipping!
It's not in great shape (obviously, since it's TWO HUNDRED FIFTY years old). Some of the sections are loose and the cover boards are plain boards with no leather or cloth covering them. The paper is amazing; more like fabric than paper, actually. The pages are foxed, and a bookworm drilled through a section of it at some point, as you can see below. But its age and condition are part of what make it so fascinating and lovely.