Yes, the Newberry is interested in genealogy and family papers, but you have to be more…well, more organized about it.
See, I’ve just been given another collection of rare, nay, unique books. And what I will probably do with them is find a safe place to put them: somewhere out of the way where they will be in no danger until I can think of a sanctuary for them. But I don’t believe they’re going upstairs.
Where to begin? This wedding program, perhaps. These folks were married about the time I started high school, so it’s quite a recent document, really. Anyway, it’s on paper and not carved on stone or pressed into a clay tablet. There is nothing very alarming about it: just a basic invitation to the wedding of, let’s say, Miss AB to Mr. CD.
Beneath this are two very similar baby books: those albums in which we record the birth weight, first tooth…you know the kind of thing. I’ve mentioned these before. You might, perhaps, expect the presence of such books in a box of family stuff.
But the collection cheats expectations. These are not offspring E, F, and G of AB and CD. The first baby book, still in its original box, is the baby book of Miss AB, the bride involved in the wedding invitation. Twenty-eight years before she was married, her parents tucked away the hospital bracelet and cards, and filled in the data on her first years. The title of the book is Our Baby’s First Seven Years, but I don’t believe it contains much more than the first few months of her biography. Parents get busy.
The other book, which has no box, is another copy of Our Baby’s First Seven Years, but it is the baby book of Mr. CD, the GROOM involved in said wedding. See, the destined bride and groom were both born in Chicago, just a few months apart, and their parents probably went to the same department in Marshall Field’s and, all unknowing, bought the same book.
Underneath these two books are a couple of books dealing with CD’s ancestors, possibly his father and grandfather, and their accomplishments here and overseas, apparently in architecture or engineering. Beneath that is a guest book from the home of Miss AB’s grandparents or great-grandparents, with a floorplan of the house itself (small, but there it is.) So bride and groom came from families of fair-to-middling means, people who had done something.
In fact, Miss AB seems to be descended from a family that made some noise back in the old country: the rest of the box deals with the musical instruments they made in Europe. There are books and magazine articles. In fact, there were conventions for people interested in the subject, to which either Miss AB or Mr. CD, or more likely both, attended, because there are a couple of booklets of the type conventioneers used to put together.
In all, it’s an interesting collection, of modest monetary value (and that only if I sell the stuff on the musical instruments separately.) The only people in the world who would really be interested in it as a collection are AB and CD, and their descendants, if any. That’s what I was wondering about, see (I hope I’m not being too familiar, CD, calling you by your first name.) Why the heck pass this box along to a Book Fair? Has the whole family been swallowed up by some disaster? Did AB and CD decide to run off and assume new identities as UV and WX, and get rid of these to cover their tracks? Or did they think the Newberry would preserve these things for them to infinity and beyond?
And people ask why a Book Fair Manager so young has white whiskers. (Actually, they don’t, but they should. It’s another one of those things I worry about.)