‘Kettering to Herne Bay’ – The joy of old books

Inspired by The Gentleman Administrator, these snippets are off topic in terms of early modern texts, but do relate to my love of history, and particularly old books.  I often wander around junk shops and flea markets searching for interesting old texts; not only because, in addition to their words, books are often objects of beauty in themselves, but also because they often supply real treasures between the pages.  I was once delighted to find a collection of war poems dating from 1917 in an abandoned box of books at a school fair. When I got home and opened the book, I found a London tram ticket marking a particular poem, dated July 24th 1918. It made me wonder who had been reading the book.  Was it someone commuting home from work, passing the time reading poetry?  And then there are the inscriptions.  Inscriptions often tell us the owner of the book’s name or record a particular event or date.  In short books have a fascinating historiography and always have more than one story to tell.  Below are several of my favourite finds.

This is the frontispiece to the collection of Longfellow poems featured in the photo at the top of this post.  I found the book in a junk shop several years ago.  It is dated 1880 and is tiny, roughly the same dimensions as a playing card.  The inscription reads:

‘Maude Douglas with love and best wishes from Mr Thos Fletcher, April 26th 1881’

The above is inscribed in a 1900 edition of Balzac’s short stories.  Nil Desperandum is perhaps some kind of private joke between the Shilston family and E Heale.

This is the inscription in an 1899 edition of the collected works of Tennyson.  It reads:

‘To Beatrice Jones from A.E.L. In memory of Sept 13th to 25th 1900.  Kettering to Herne Bay’

This is an 1850 edition of Tennyson’s Works.  The book falls open on page 302, half way through a poem entitled In Memoriam A.H.H.  A sprig of rosemary has carefully been pressed between pages 302-3, the flowers resting on the lines:

‘In those sad words I took farewell:
Like echoes in sepulchral halls,
As drop by drop the water falls
In vaults and catacombs, they fell’

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One comment

  • May 18, 2010 - 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Lovely. I particularly like tike Tennyson.

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