Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Forgotten Bookmarks -- A Book Review and the Home Library that Just Happened

I love finding things in old books---and I'm obsessive about keeping the finds exactly where I found them. When I was two years old, I received a Bible with gorgeous illustrations. As a child, I stuck special things into it over the course of my first nine or ten years. I was always really careful to keep all my little treasures in the same spot in that Bible---so careful that I had to get a second Bible to read because I was afraid of messing up my Bible-with-the-stuff-in-it. There's a pressed butterfly bookmark that was my grandma's, a letter from my Dad---I can't remember what all, but they're treasures!

Author Michael Popek enjoys finding stuff in books, too. His family runs a bookshop in New York and he's been running a blog for the last 10 years, chronicling his finds. His books, Forgotten Bookmarks and Handwritten Recipes are full of interesting, odd, whimsical, and memorable ephemera---all things important enough for someone to keep but probably long forgotten.

This was really a fun book. Now I want to go through all my old books looking for treasures! I think I'll make an effort to leave a little something behind in the books I pass on---just for fun. Who knows? Maybe the Garfield playing card I left in this one will show up in a publication someday.

Some of my favorite finds of this book include a photo inscribed by Sara Teasdale's father, the very old letters from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the family temperance pledge from 1899. My mom, brother, and I signed a similar pledge around 1988 or so.

A few days ago, I shared some of my old books with you all and talked about my new favorite place to buy antique books. {By the way, I stopped in yesterday to check...Little Lord F. is still there waiting for me! Only one more day til payday!} Last night, while contemplating this fun book I'd just finished, I thought I'd better start going through my old books to see what may have been left behind. {update: I did find some interesting things in one...details to come!}

Which led me to desiring to have these all in one place so I can start reading them...

Which led me to wrangling my two oldest sons into moving a shelf into my sitting room and hunting around my books and crafts area in my bedroom for all my antique books.

Which led to me seeing a ton of books I'd forgotten I had---like this 1947 first edition of Mrs. Mike that my mom gave me in the sixth grade because I had a crush on Mike Powell.

After filling the spot behind the brown recliner with the bookshelf and books, I realized that this room has pretty much become a library. So that's what I'm calling it now---my library. But I'm gonna work on pronouncing it "lie-bree"...'cause it sounds so Miss Marple.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune -- Book Review

I first read about Huguette Clark on Facebook in 2011 when she passed away and the headlines screamed that she'd left her fortune to her nurse. I remember thinking that it was likely her family didn't take much interest in her until after she'd died and a nurse who cared for her for 20 years would probably seem more like family anyway. According to authors Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., I was right.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune is a non-fiction book chronicling the lives of heiress Huguette Clark (1906-2011), and her father, copper baron and United States Senator William A. Clark (1839 – 1925), one of the wealthiest men in the world in his time. It's a stranger-than-fiction story of both William and Huguette's lives, including healthy, able, and very very rich Huguette's choice to spend the last twenty years of her life in New York City hospitals.

I really enjoyed this excellent story that spanned the lifetime of the two long-living individuals. I've spent the last few days experiencing 172 years of history---the lifespan of this father and daughter. Unimaginably, Huguette lived long enough to remember and narrowly escape the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 AND the attack on New York's Twin Towers in 2001.

I love reading stories about America's "Gilded Age" and this one is probably as good as it gets. I can't even imagine what it would have been like to have so much wealth that...well, I could do anything. Yet Mrs. Clark, in my opinion, lived humbly and with integrity.

Still, her generosity didn't always have the greatest consequences. For instance, her nurse takes no issue with admitting that she gave her life away to care for Huguette---missing many years of her children's growing up time and putting her husband in a position that he didn't feel the need to or see the point in earning a living to support his family. It would be difficult to know who was a true friend in that situation, I think.

There's so many neat and interesting bits of history in this book---especially nuggets of art history, which I love. It was also fun to see the many photos included. The publishers followed up with a great website about the book full of more photos and info.

Do you have a favorite Victorian or Gilded Age book? Let me know!

Empty Mansions fulfills the following Reading Challenges:
Victorian Reading Challenge at Belle's Library
Victorian Reading Challenge at Becky's Book Reviews for "Book About Property, Inheritance, Economics"
Full House Reading Challenge for "You Didn't Want to Put it Down"
Mount TBR Reading Challenge -- #10
Women's Fiction Reading Challenge---Book 1

You can see all the Reading Challenges I've joined here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Newest Oldest Books: The Post In Which I Give Up My Best Kept Secret of the Week

Like most lovers of books, I dream of someday having a library of beautiful old books, floor to ceiling, in my home. Currently, most of my home is filled up with children, but that doesn't mean I can't get started on that collection! I love it when I find Victorian and early 20th century books in great {or even not-so-great} condition! I've recently discovered the antique book section of my city library's used book sale room. Part of me is seriously considering not alerting my local readers who may not be aware that it exists...{Just save me the antique copy of Little Lord Fauntleroy---I'm planning on grabbing it on pay day!!}

The Saturday before Mother's Day, my husband and I took most of our kids to the Lego Mania! hour at the Bella Vista, Arkansas public library. That was the day I discovered the lovely antique books and magazines section. WOW! I not-so-subtly pointed it out to my husband and then went back to sit with my kids {ok, I gave him $40 out of my wallet first...}. He conspired with the librarians to secret this thirteen-volume collection of Shakespeare's complete works, 1902 editions, along with the gorgeous homemaking book from 1912, (pictured above) from one end of the library to the other and hide them away. In fact, he even made up an excuse to leave the house again later in the day to go back across town and pick them up. Super sweet! This man knows the way to my heart---and it's not diamonds, spa days, or chocolate! {Ok, it really is chocolate...chocolate and books}.

Yesterday I took the kids for our weekly library day {disguised as book shopping day}. Their prom last weekend about cleaned me out so I'm down to my last 20 bucks and couldn't really justify buying more antique books---even if they are only $4-$5 a pop. Lucky for me, one of the little girls had grabbed a stack of kids' books from the kids' sale shelf and I had to tell her no and put them back. When I went to put them back, I discovered this gorgeous 1927 edition of Aesop's Fables on the shelf for only 50 cents!!! {Yes, I made my daughter put back her books so I could buy mine. No, I don't feel bad---she had Disney's Aladdin, ok? Aesop is way more enriching. Trust me.}

The illustrations in this are amazing and date from this version's original publication date of 1894. I wish I could scan every single page for you all to see. They're so full of character and quirkiness. To the descendants of illustrator Richard Heighway, I tip my sun bonnet.

In other old book news, I've been getting a lot of visitors to my review of Mrs. Prentiss', Stepping Heavenward. If you're interested in seeing an antique copy of that, I feature it in this post about making a pressed flower bookmark.

Do you collect old or quirkily illustrated books? I'd love to hear about your collection!