Once there was a book…

Keep it in the Family?


The spine from Jolly Good Times: or Child-life on a farm by P. Thorne. 1875, Roberts Brothers: Boston. 23h16924

Hey guys, today I want to show you a book I found recently in the stacks that has some pretty interesting paratextual elements. Not only is this book an example of binder’s waste, it also contains two inscriptions that I have a few thoughts about. But first let’s focus on the spine of the book.

If you are new to the blog or are unfamiliar with the term binder’s waste, please refer back to my earlier post about binder’s waste here! I like this book as an example of binder’s waste because you can really get in there and see what materials the book binder used to create the spine. There are layers of pages pasted together to create the structure and though they are ripped and folded in some areas you can actually read them. This is really cool because it allows us to know what other books the binder was working with something that could potentially help us to identify the time period or location the book was originally written and bound in. Luckily we didn’t have to do any extra sleuthing with this book. Reading the outermost page on the spine flap, I can determine what some words and phrases are. Even though the lines of text get cut off every few words due to the size of the flap, I can still form a rough picture that the page came from a work about a figure from the late Roman Empire: Pompey.


The inscriptions from Jolly Good Times

As interesting as this instance of binder’s waste is, the inscriptions within the book are what really caught my attention. There are two of them and they take place roughly thirty-four years apart from each other. As you can see, both authors have the same last name. Now, granted this may be a reach, but as soon as I saw that both inscriptions shared the same surname and were separated by a few decades I immediately imagined that this book originally belonged to Eliza M. Crawford and then later she passed it on to her own daughter, Beatrice. Maybe it’s just the dewy-eyed romantic in me, but I love the idea that Eliza loved Jolly Good Times so much as a young girl that she hung on to the book throughout the rest of her childhood and adolescence and then gave to her daughter to read and love in turn. Besides my own imaginings, these inscriptions are also interesting to look at to see the differences in handwriting. Notice how elegant and controlled Eliza’s inscription is as compared to Beatrice’s, which resembles more typical child’s handwriting. I wish I could know for certain whether this book was indeed passed on from mother to daughter out of readerly love but without facts, I will have to be happy with my own theories and I’d be glad to hear any of yours!


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This entry was posted on September 18, 2014 by in Children's Literature, Paratexts and tagged , .
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