Apr 20, 2009

Family Treasures

Not my books - this picture is from somewhere in internet-land. But aren't they pretty?

I was examining the bookshelves at my Dad's house the other day, as is my habit, to see which books I wanted to rescue that day.

You see, although my Mum was a prolific reader and book hoarder, my Dad is not a reader. He has been known, now that Mum has passed away, to randomly sweep a shelf of books into some bags and donate them to a book sale.

Well okay, he only did it once. But in that shelf of books was a leather-bound copy of the Wind in the Willows, with beautiful colour plates, which Mum had been given as a child. I had quite deliberately left this book at Dad's house because I thought it would be safer there than on a shelf in my house, with the hands of small children reaching for it. Aaaaarrgghh.

I haven't quite articulated to him how devastating this was, but I did quietly request that the next time he gets an urge to purge books, could he call me first and I can go through them first? I didn't want to upset him, really, as there is nothing he can do about it anyway - and it is only a book, and I do have another copy of the Wind in the Willows (which is beside the point). And it was at least partly my fault for not telling him that I had left the book there on purpose - I had already removed plenty of books from his house, so he was reasonable in assuming that I had already taken anything I really wanted. But it being at least partly my fault just makes it worse, of course. Anyhow, he has promised not to get rid of any more books. phew.

However, I no longer see Dad's house as a safe place for books, so I rescue a bag or two each time we visit.

This last time, I spotted a copy of the Pilgrim's Progress. Which I confess I have never actually read, but which, like a lot of classics, is on my list of things to read 'one day'. So I picked it off the shelf and popped it into my bag (along with an encyclopaedic dictionary, a NZ pictorial history, some dictionaries of music, the Tell Me Why books...).
Book Depository picture - not my Great Grandma's copy

It turns out that this Pilgrim's Progress was a Miller's Flat Presbyterian Sunday School Prize awarded to my Great-Grandmother for achieving 52% in Scripture and 56% in Catechism in the Assembly's Exam, in December 1908.

How cool is that?!

I am very happy to have rescued this book - it even more than makes up for the Wind in the Willows, because this is the only thing I possess that was my Great-Grandmother's, whereas I have lots of stuff (too much stuff, to be honest) that belonged to my Mum. This is my Nana's mother, who died when Nana was only 13 years old. I can only imagine how much my Nana must have treasured this book.

The only thing I know about my Nana's mother is that she died young, and that my Nana believed that if she had lived my Nana would have been allowed to finish her schooling and perhaps even attend university. In the event, Nana (their only child) left school when her mother died, to keep house for her father.

But now I have her Sunday School prize of 1908, and I shall treasure it. It is a treasure not just for the book itself, though I'd have been happy to find any copy of The Pilgrim's Progress, and not simply because it is a link to one of my forebears about whom I know very little, but mostly it is a treasure for what it meant to my much loved Nana. This book was one of the few links she had to her own mother.

And now it is mine to treasure in turn.


Penny said...

Very, very cool! May it be enjoyed for many years to come by your daughters and future generations, after you in the meantime...

Emma said...

Amazing! I love old book, and old books with family connections are wonderful.

Newer Post Older Post Home