About five years ago my children and I spent a couple of summer weeks visiting my parents, while Mr. BSR stayed home, playing bachelor. While we were away he took the opportunity to work on the house, painting and wallpapering the living room. Meanwhile, the children and I were busy shopping, going out to dinner and seeing movies. Not very hard to say who had the better bargain that summer, and after all that we came home to a much improved living room.
The children were ecstatic to spend the extra time with my parents, and I was ecstatic to get away from the house at all. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for what seemed like forever, and my children were still pretty small. Life was isolated and very hectic. I had no one to watch the children for me on a regular basis, so I did very little outside the house. I was in serious danger of becoming a hermit.
One day during our visit my mother suggested we go shopping at local antique shops. Three small children and antique shops do NOT mix, but fortunately in the same town in which my parents live I had a niece with her own home daycare center. Daycare + children = mama can go near breakable items without having to fear for her life.
That’s a good thing.
I was more interested in browsing than actual buying, whereas my mother, the power buyer, went after it with the zeal of a terrier who’s scented a rat. She knew there was something out there she simply had to have, she just had to find it first. She was not to be thwarted. I had more laid-back expectations. I was happy just to be associating with grown ups, so browsing satisfied me. More specifically, browsing for antique books.
The edition of The Little Minister pictured above is the one book I bought that day. I’m not sure why it originally caught my eye. It’s pretty enough, with its gilt edges and lovely art nouveau cover, but a lot of books have pretty covers. After I pulled it off the shelf to leaf through it I found something that stopped me in my tracks. Tucked inside the book were turn of the century photos of two women who appeared to have been either relatives or good friends.
The photos had an almost sepia quality to them, and the paper they were printed on was extremely thin, yet they appeared to be genuine. There was very little fading, as far as I could tell, and both photos were taken in a very ornate, Victorian-looking room.
When I saw the book was marked only $ 5, I knew I’d found myself a bargain. Obviously, the shop owner didn’t leaf through all his books, or surely I wouldn’t have walked out of there with this treasure.
Now I’m left wondering who these women are. There’s a strong possibility the inscription on the front free endpaper (bookseller term, sorry, force of habit) solves that riddle. Or it would, if I could clearly read it. There’s the rub. Unlike the photos, the inscription isn’t quite as easy to decipher. It’s subject to interpretation exactly what it says, though I have a rough approximation.
One thing I can be pretty certain of is that these two women lived in Decatur, Illinois. I can extrapolate that based on the fact there were also two newspaper clippings tucked in the book, both of which were from the local Decatur paper. So, whoever these two friends are, I can pinpoint at least the general area in which they lived.
What I can read of the inscription is “Christmas, 1899. My Dear Miss ?? From Dell Owen.” Or, I think that’s what it says. If you click on the photo it will enlarge. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I, and perhaps you can tell me what it says. I can’t make out the name of the young lady to whom the book was given. It may be Pierson, or Pierce, or something of that nature, but Dell Owen seems fairly certain.
What I learned from the whole experience is it pays to go antiquing with my mother. She’s sure to be at it for hours, so if there’s a shop within a 50-mile radius with a book worth buying there’s time to locate it.
And oh, by the way, I still haven’t actually read the book,in case you were wondering. But it looks very pretty on my shelf.