Monday, November 21, 2022

The Secret Lives of Books: Tales of The Alhambra

Have you ever had a good idea that turned out to be a super great idea? That's what happened to me when I chose to spend a little extra on this pricey London-printed 1927 copy of Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra (left). Before I get into my most recent intriguing find, let me give you a little history on The Alhambra.

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress located in Granada, Spain. Building began in 1238 and regular construction and restoration campaigns have been launched ever since. It's a very well-preserved example of Islamic architecture and serves as one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations. Westerners will know it as the place in which Christopher Columbus met with Ferdinand and Isabella to present his ideas for exploration.

In 1828, author Washington Irving was granted permission to stay at The Alhambra while researching for another book on the history of Granada. 
Tales of The Alhambra contains essays and stories Irving collected while staying at the fortress, as well as historical information about it. The book served to introduce most of Western culture to the history of the place. 

When I came across the 1927 edition of the book, I noticed all the beautiful drawn illustrations inside. I also noticed the other more modern editions of the book sitting beside it on the shelf. I picked up a 1991 copy printed in Spain and noticed how many of the sketches had been replaced with color photographs. I thought it would be fun to read the copies simultaneously and compare the sketches to the photos. (Is this weird? I don't know.) I purchased both copies and then things got really interesting. 

I love seeing evidence of a book's history. In this case, we have a woman with a probably-American name, writing in English but from Granada, in a book that was published and likely purchased in London. I found the book in a small town bookshop in NW Arkansas 100 years later. This alone is enough to start my imagination whirling in all kinds of directions.

Further on in the book, I found a forgotten bookmark torn from the top of a letter. It's impossible to know exactly what's going on here but the front of the letter tells us there are at least four people involved in a circle letter, and the back tells us there's some kind of issue that must be addressed.

"...the subject with her. We will have to get on with her over all the years to come and if we do not..."

I'm dying to know what the rest of the letter says!!

To top it off, I found this punched train ticket toward the back of the book. Seems Marie wanted to keep her copy of the book as a bit of a scrapbook of mementos. The ticket is for First Class on the now defunct Ferrocarriles Andaluces railway. Since the ticket was punched at Gibraltar, it seems she traveled by ship to Gibraltar, then took some sort of transportation to the station at Bobadilla. From there, she took this railway to reach Granada, and probably went on to tour The Alhambra. 

It's difficult to tell how much she paid for the ticket as I'm not sure if she paid in British or Spanish currency. Assuming the revised price of 22.60 at the bottom of this ticket is pesos, that would come out to about .14 in US dollars at the time. That's a little over $30 now. Sounds about right for a train ride of several hours, don't you think?

If you're interested in the Secret Lives of Books, be sure to check out the link in my sidebar for all the posts I've done on forgotten bookmarks, interesting signatures, and booklarking in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment