I was fortunate, many years ago, of obtaining a collection of books that were my Grandfather’s. Many are old “classics” and some are just cheapo abridged editions of some classics and some non-classics. Tonight I walked over to the book case and grabbed 4 that I decided that I would read. I knew nothing more than the title or the author and I inspected them closely before taking them up to my bedside table.
The first title was “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Always a fun summer read. When I opened the cover I realized that it was a bit more brittle than I had hoped and I looked at the date and realized it was from 1896 with a smiling S.L Clemens inside the first page. In the back cover I found a poem from 1896 that was written for Winsted Connecticut’s 125th anniversary. It’s from the paper and on the back they are discussing a Tariff from 1894. My natural assumption was that my grandfather bought the book new (it even has his signature in it) but, since he was born in 1892, he would have been 4. Sounds like a mystery to solve.
The second title “Oil for the Lamps of China” is by Alice Tisdale Hobart (1933). I have always liked the title. The inside cover artwork is really nice. Inside was a Christmas tag to my Grandfather from my Great Aunt Grace. So, was this a Christmas gift from my Aunt Grace? I always loved spending time with my Aunt Grace and Aunt May. The tag was at the beginning of chapter 16 and it makes me wonder if my Grandfather ever finished the book or did he get through the first 15 chapters and then stopped, never to finish. I’ll have to finish it for the both of them. Another mystery.
The third title “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder (1928) has a date stamp next to my grandfather’s name saying 1928 so I assume he got this book new. Almost all of his books have either his (very) neatly written signature or a stamp of his signature and a date. He was in banking and I assume he used the signature stamp that he used every day for work. Wilder. I had always thought that smart people read authors like Wilder. That’s why I picked the book. We’ll see. This signature thing isn’t really a mystery but it is something worth exploring.
For the last title I decided on some Hemingway. I was a big Hemingway fan in high school. For those who knew me you may be surprised. But I loved his descriptions of places that were foreign to me. So, this book? “Green Hills of Africa.”(1935) I hadn’t read it and it has a grass green (no dust jacket) cover. I’m pretty sure I started reading Hemingway because of my grandfather’s many titles by him. He, (and my Aunt Grace and Aunt May) always had tons of books around the house and I think I developed my love of reading by spending time thumbing through these wonderful books.
And so what started as walking over to a book case to “see what I might want to read,” has become a blog post, a trip down memory lane, and a mini sleuthing adventure. And, it’s only been about 90 minutes since I walked over to the book case. This process has made me want to explore our ancestry because of all of the questions that have risen in my brain. Maybe some of my relatives can write in the comments about their remembrances of Raymond Larkin of Winsted Connecticut July 19th 1892 – August 1, 1971.
I have great memories of Gramma and Grampa's house and all the books. I would climb up to their attic and sit in the window overlooking the front yard. All around the window were shelves with books and old metal toys. The toys probably belonged to Mom or Uncle John and were fun to play with…especially since they were so tough I couldn't break them! But the books always drew my attention. Especially the series of Harvard Classics. I remember thinking that attic was so special that I wanted to grow up and buy the house so I could live there forever.
Grampa gave me a number of books. I dearly love the Gene Stratton Porter books. I have Laddie, Freckles, Girl of the LImberlost, and several others. I also have a few of the Dave Dawson series that was written about WWI. The books are pretty frail now, but I still enjoy reading them. And you are right, his signature is in many of them. I don't believe anyone has hand writing like that anymore. Most of the books date from the early 1900s through about 1930. I wonder if some of the Peter Cotton Tail and Bobby Coon series were purchased for Mom and Uncle John?
He gave me Heidi and I have always wanted to travel to Switzerland and see where the Alm Uncle lived. I read that to Brianna as the first truly long book she heard. I wonder if that lead to her wanting to travel there in High School. She's been able to live my dream! But the best part is the books seem to link our past to our children. Our kids will always kind of know our grandparents through these wonderful books. I hope they last through their children too. And that will mean another generation will love books, too!