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From My Bookshelf: Garden, Pearl, Tales

For the past few months I have made it a habit to organize/tidy up my bookshelves at the very beginning of the month. It’s another great way to start the month off refreshed, and if you find organizing your shelves therapeutic like I do, it offers a few moments of calm before the onslaught of a new month of responsibilities.

This month was no different, and as I rearranged my bookshelves I once again encountered the black canvas storage basket in which I keep some of my more delicate vintage editions. The three I’ve chosen for this installment of From My Bookshelf all carry a different level of infamy, they address different topics, but what they do have in common is all of their covers are my favorite color: green. Oh, and I also haven’t read any of them.

My Garden of Memory: An Autobiography
Kate Douglas Wiggin

  • Houghton Mifflin Company (The Riverside Press Cambridge), Copyright 1923

Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923) wrote children’s stories and notably started the first free kindergarten (in San Francisco) as well as, with her sister, a training school for kindergarten teachers. She did a lot of traveling throughout her life across the United States and Europe. This autobiography was published posthumously, thanks to many of the materials and items she had saved and put aside.

I would also be remiss to mention that Kate Douglas Wiggin spent a lot of time in Maine (where I am from and live); in fact, she requested her ashes be scattered over Maine’s Saco River when she died (which they were). Bowdoin College here in Maine has a delightful Kate Douglas Wiggin Collection [according to their website], which you can read about here.

(And in case you were wondering, I have included a photo of the title spread because the title and author text on the cover and binding have completely worn off.)

The Pearl of Orr’s Island 
Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • H.L. Burt Company, Publishers, New York
    • There is no copyright or publication date noted, but below Harriet Beecher Stowe’s name on the title page, “Author of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ ‘The Minister’s Wooing,’ etc., etc.” is written.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (1811-1896) name likely brings to mind Uncle Tom’s Cabin, unless you know more about her, of course. I cannot do her legacy justice here in this short snippet in this blog post, so I’m just going to focus on The Pearl of Orr’s Island. Orr’s Island is a real place, a real island, off the coast of Maine in Casco Bay. It actually forms an archipelago, if you’re keen on geography terms. Anyway, Harriet Beecher Stowe used the real setting of Orr’s Island, including scenery, the landscape, and neighborhoods, to tell a fictional story. It is considered a culturally historic novel, and is even available on Project Gutenberg if you are interested in reading it.

Mary Barton and Other Tales
Mrs. Gaskell (Elizabeth Gaskell)

  • Smith, Elder, & Co., 15 Waterloo Place (London), 1884

Although the previous two books are dear to me because of their Maine connection, this particular book and edition is especially special to me because of the three known people who owned it before me. But first, a little about the author.

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) focused on the various social classes within Victorian society in her writing, and famously wrote the first biography about Charlotte Brontë (The Life of Charlotte Brontë). Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel, Mary Barton, was written after she and her husband lost a son in infancy, and many of her first poems were based on and inspired by her journey in parenthood. In 1850, the Gaskell family moved to 84 Plymouth Grove in Manchester, which today stands (after a large restoration) as a writer’s museum.

Now back to my book. Quickly, I want to mention my favorite bookstore – Carlson & Turner Antiquarian Books and Bookbindery – because it is where I found this gem of a book [among others]. If you walk into that bookstore and take a novel off the shelf, it is likely there will be a name and a date written inside by the person who it used to belong to. I find that so incredibly charming, and telling of how the sentimentality of physical books has changed throughout the years. The inscriptions in this book are as follows (copied here in order of which they appear on the blank pages at the front of the book):

Kathryn C—? Glass
Oxford – 1922

A—? Jn. Bennett (at least I think it’s Bennett)
June 13th, 1885

And one more scrawled name, as well as
October, 1919

I’m sorry, Mrs. Gaskell, that this collection of yours is special to me because of its previous owners and not primarily because of your writing. Unfortunately this edition is in extremely rough shape, and until I can get the binding fixed and the cover adhered back onto it, I’m going to keep it closed as much as possible, so if you know of any bound Elizabeth Gaskell collections or recommend certain editions of her work, let me know!

Are you familiar with these books and/or these authors? Do you have any treasured vintage editions on your bookshelves? I would love to hear from you in a comment below.


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