My mother invited me on a recent visit to take whatever books I wanted for my collection. As I searched her shelves I discovered old books aren’t necessarily collectible books.
Then I spotted a small notebook.
The notebook was first owned by a seaman or as he wrote: “Edward B. Penny’s Book onboard Ship Wifcafset of Sag harbor June 6, 1849, Latt. 36-47 N, Long. 136 W.”
The man wrote poetry in a vintage script. “I think on the mariner toss’d on the billow” begins one. He writes about a lost brother and home sweet home.
There’s a lot more from Penny in this book but most is covered by news clippings someone glued onto the pages. It’s a little disappointing, for sure, because I’d like to know more about the numbers and jottings I can make out around the edges. Ah, but the clippings are from the 1880s and I suppose the person who glued them used a notebook that was handy. [Someone tried to remove the clippings from several pages, which wasn’t helpful at all.]
The glued items were news stories, poetry, wedding announcements, and obits. They tell a lot about newspapers in the 1880s. The paper is browned. The print is tiny. The obits are flowery and the poetry is incredibly bad.
But there are gems. I like the story about Thomas McElrath, a farmer from Utah who claimed not to have slept for 12 years — the headline was “Twelve Years Sleepless.” People stayed up watching to prove he wasn’t a
fraud. Others tried to cure him. Finally one night “He slept one long delicious sleep, and awoke, on the following morning, refreshed and happy.” After that he slept normally.
Then, there was Eccentric Nancy Luce. The first of three brief items announced the death of Miss Nancy Luce of West Tisbury (Martha’s Vineyard) with this headline: “She Loved Her Hens.” Nancy published a book of poetry about her hens and sold photos of her posing with two on her lap. They had names like Ada Queetie, Tweedle Tedl and Beebe Pinky. When they died, she placed marble headstones on their graves.
An obit for a man who committed suicide had this headline: “Became Tired of Living.”
Is the book worth anything? I doubt it. But I plan to add it to my collection anyway.