The Internet Archives is asking people to post the oldest books they own as part of their #OwnBooks campaign to show why it’s important that people are actually allowed to own the works they purchases, as opposed to just renting or leasing content.

This is not the oldest book that I own, but it is one that has been in my possession the longest.

Image of the book Our Universe
Cover of Our Universe

The National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe was an awesome tour of the solar system and universe told in pictures. This edition, the original published in 1980, is now woefully out-of-date. It’s survived floods, hurricanes, and – perhaps the most destructive force of all – children.

Image of page 42 & 43 of Our Universe
Page 42 & 43 of Our Universe
Image of page 46 & 47 from Our Universe
Page 46 & 47 from Our Universe
Image of page 58 & 59 from Our Universe
Page 58 & 59 from Our Universe
Image of page 192 & 193 from Our Universe
Page 92 & 93 of Our Universe

The original owner of this book was the Houston Independent School District. Specifically, the library at Barrick Elementary. I’m not sure how many times I checked out this book – it was a lot. My favorite part was – and still is – the “What if …” there’s life on other planets, what might it look like. Deep down, I knew life on these other planets might not look like this, but when you’re a kid it’s fun to dream and imagine.

Image of a book spine repaired with packing tape
My dad repaired the binding with packing tape. Not the best conservation-wise, but it’s held for 30-something years.

I’m not sure how this book ever survived my childhood. At one point, my dad used box tape to fix the broken spine. Not the best practice, from an archival standpoint, but it’s held surprisingly well all these years.

I pretty much wore out this book to the point where it needed to be discarded and replaced. Our librarian, Ms. Bowman, decided to just give me the book. Thank you Ms. Bowman, wherever you are.