Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged

I know where the book came from, but not how it ended up where it did, in the West Elm home furnishings store in Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia, where along with two other books it was resignedly decorating a console table.

I left the other two books languishing there.

Of the three, the thinnest one called out to me loudest. It was a linguistics book, and I recognized both the publisher and the author. Inside the book was a receipt showing that The University of Chicago Press had shipped the book to linguist R. Miller at Montclair State College in New Jersey for $6.25 in 1972.

R. Miller must have eventually cast the book aside, because it wound up at the famous Strand bookshop in New York City, according to a construction-orange price sticker on the front endpaper.

How it got from The Strand into a shop in another part of the country, the world may never know. However, I speculate that, after the Strand couldn’t sell it at $2, the shop offloaded it along with a lot of other unwanted volumes to a decorator, who distributed books across the country to the outlets of a national furniture retailer, where perhaps no one apart from the occasional bored spouse even gave it a passing glance until I happened along.

The hipster at the checkout counter was more cooperative than I imagined he would be, did not seem to find my request to buy the book amusing in the slightest. And he only charged me a dollar, though I offered to pay two.

I’d have been willing to pay ten. It was a linguistics book. By an author whose name I recognized. From the publisher belonging to the university where I studied linguistics. And it had been sent to a town in New Jersey not far from where I lived for five years, a town where a friend of mine, in fact, teaches at an elementary school. It had washed up at The Strand, a famous NYC bookstore to which I made a pilgrimage when I attended Book Expo America during my time working for a university press.

I was destined to rescue that thin, green, cloth-bound book, and rescue it I did.

I even read it.

When and Why I Read Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics

If you have ever doubted the forces of coincidence, doubt no more, for they conspired to an almost inconceivable degree to ensure that I came into the possession of this particular book.

Genre: Linguistics
Date started / date finished: 08-Mar-20 to 21-Mar-20
Length: 111 pages
ISBN: 0226467864
Originally published in: 1971
Amazon link: Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics