Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Secret Life of Books: Inscriptions, Inspiring and Otherwise


One reason I love to collect antique books is the fun I have reading the inscriptions. Inscriptions are an important part of a book's history as they give us information on previous owners, dates gifted, and, oftentimes, the thoughts of the previous reader about the book. I always ask my mom or husband to write an inscription when they gift me books and I proudly sign my name and the 21st century date below all inscriptions in my antique books.

I've got just a couple funny ones to share today. First up is this 1945 copy of Best Short Stories of Jack London


Inside is a funny little poem:

The errant cat though long astray
Comes back to home at last one day.
Ah! May this book when lent be feline
Enough to make a homeward beline!
 Zeta Schooler
Dec. 31, 1949
Raymond, Wash.

Next up is this history book from 1942: The Growth of the American People and Nation by Mary G. Kelty. 

This inscription cracks me up:
In case of fire or flood, throw this book out last.

Hmmm...sounds like a winner! Perhaps I'll add it to the kids' homeschool rotation. Ha!!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Secret Life of Books: Hopelessly Devoted to Hawthorne


I've never been the type to crush on a celebrity, but I do have to admit to an author crush. I'm fascinated with the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne---and it helps that he's babelicious, to boot! Nevermind the minor age difference...and the issue of, well, everything. (Hawthorne died 154 years ago at age 60) Nathaniel Hawthorne is my male Jane Austen. In fact, if I ever have another son, I'm thinking of naming him Nathaniel Hawthorne Coller. I'm not even kidding.

Anyway...today I have a couple awesome Hawthorne finds to show you all! My daughter, Lynzie, volunteers at our public library---that same one that has the awesome antique book sale section. A couple weeks ago she found this fabulous 1910 beauty, Hawthorne's Country and, sweet thing that she is, ended up giving it to me. This author, Helen A. Clarke wrote several biographies of 19th century authors, published in these pretty volumes with lots of photographs included.

Maine's Bowdoin College where Hawthorne was a student in the early 1820s.

As is fitting, this book contains a secret! Hidden away towards the back of the book (for maximum weight benefits) are these pressed plants and a note dated from the early 1950s:

"Pulled the leaf from an elm tree that grew in front of a courts cabin we stayed in at Belleville, Kan while on our vacation. June 18, 1953.
Nov. 27, 1952 --sprig of Platte River Spruce
June 16, 1953 -- 2 leaves of supposed Iron Wood collected on shore of Sylvan Lake Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota"

The other side of the paper is a 1950s era ad for Mt. Rushmore Souvenir and Gift Shop. 

Further on in the book, she'd pressed this pretty pink flower. (I haven't shown all this to Lynzie. I'm afraid she'll take it back!!)

Earlier this year, I was shopping for school books for the kids and came across this gorgeous cloth-covered edition of Hawthorne's Wonder Book. The print sorta looks like ladybugs...or it could be lollipops...or maybe hot air balloons. Whatever it is, it's sorta steampunky and super neat! 

Ruth Mettler earned this pretty book for good attendance in 1907, but I wonder where the book was in the few years since it was published in 1902? Perhaps it was the teacher's special copy that she decided to pass along to a loved pupil?

We have several newer copies of this volume as it's a great reference to help kids learn some of the ancient Greek myths. However, this one is all mine! Can you believe I won the auction for $5!!

Have you found anything neat in a book lately? Tell me about it!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Secret Life of Books: Of Vow and Verse

One thing I love about collecting antique books is discovering the hidden stories they tell. It feels magical to open an old volume and find a photo, clipping, or note that someone left behind long ago. 

I've been putting together my kids' homeschool curriculum for this coming school year and have started collecting the books they'll be reading. They read a lot of books that are 80-100 years old and older, but I usually purchase a newer version in paperback so they'll last longer. Whenever I find an antique version, however, I grab it up for my own library. 

I recently found this 1939 version of The Oxford Book of English Verse at my local library's book sale shop. It's the "new edition", spanning years 1250-1908. Its navy blue cover is just the right amount of worn and its ribbon bookmark is set at Coleridge's Kubla Khan. It's going to look lovely in my collection but what I'm most excited about was the treasure I found inside.

On one side is the minister's notes for a long ago marriage ceremony. One side has been torn off---I'm sure it's marking a spot in some other old book somewhere. 

The other side is someone's notes for his marriage vows. My imagination tells me it's the night before the wedding and the couple has just finished the wedding rehearsal at the church. All went fairly well, until the future bride pulled a folded note from her purse when the minister said it was time to practice their vows. On it was the seventeenth draft of the wedding vows she'd been rewriting all week. An awkward silence follows the groom's little white lie, "I'm still working on mine."

After everyone else has left, the groom says to the minister in a panic, "Why didn't you tell me, man?! I don't know how to write wedding vows---I thought that was your job!" The minister tells him to just make a list of a few things he likes about her and end it with something Laurence Olivier would say. The groom pats his pockets, searching for something to write on. The minister grabs the order of service from his Bible and rips a portion off to keep back for a bookmark. "Here man, use this. Now pull yourself together. It's your wedding, after all."  The groom grabs the paper and offered pen and scribbles the following:

sense of adventur
flex indep.
love of nature
comm to family
your wonderful soul
Together, I want to seek, through life's adventures, to expand our hearts & minds

Shaking, he hands it back to the minister. "How's this?" he asks. 
"Excellent," he answers. "Now put it somewhere where you won't lose it."