| Newberry


Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

In Collectibles, Not Biography

There ought to be a shrine somewhere for certain books.

I know there is no space at the Newberry. I haven’t asked, but after this many years I know the answers to many questions without asking them. So I don’t expect them to find a special case for this particular book.

To be fair, I’m not altogether sure who will ever come and look at this book. The only researchers who would really have an interest, I guess, are the people who brought it in. So THEY don’t have room for a shrine at their place.

It’s a quick read, and there isn’t a LOT if action, but there is some. The heroine of the book is named Olive, and at the age of eight months, she dropped a toy out of her crib and said “Gone!” That was her first word, in 1910.

Yep, somebody dropped off another one of those thrillers I learned to call a “Baby Book”. Millions of people across this country had Baby Books; some of us had more than one. (Not everyone can be terribly original when attending a baby shower.) These are those books with a few words and a few pictures, and lots of space for doting parents to put in stories about their little bundles of bounce. (Making them anecdoting parents.) The Baby Book, to judge by the examples I’ve been given over the years, dates to at least the end of the nineteenth century, and I bet if someone wanted to do the research before building the shrine, they could find even earlier examples.

Some contain locks of hair, and many contain hand and foot prints. Sometimes the birth certificate is saved in a Baby Book. There are often photographs, and some people find this a convenient place to paste all the congratulation cards.

I don’t know a great deal about Olive, because either her parents had another Baby Book for her, or just didn’t have much time. I know that at birth, she was one foot, eight and a half inches long “as near as we could measure”. This tells me more about her folks than it tells me about Olive.

There are no photographs of Olive in her Baby Book. This is not so terribly unusual. In 1909, a family would almost certainly have owned a Family Photo Album, and any pictures would probably have gone there. They may not have owned a camera, relying on some photographer’s studio, which would have been expensive enough to mean there weren’t enough pictures for the album AND the Baby Book. Likewise, the birth certificate and lock of hair might have gone into the big Family Bible, a traditional spot for such things.

And Mom and Dad, whatever they did all day, were typical hardworking souls and didn’t give a lot of time to writing in the Baby Book. There are notes for 1909 and 1910 (Olive’s second word was “Girl”, apparently in response to her reflection in a mirror.) But nothing much happens then until 1914, when a page was lavished on her fifth birthday party.

Still, there’s enough data for one to wish for a sequel. A child whose first word is “gone” must have made for an interesting adult. How did she do in school? (I suppose the report cards were kept in the parlor, near the Family Album.) Did she fill in Baby Books for her own Olive Junior? Which generation of Olive’s descendants decided to pass along this treasure after a century?

All of these details would be handy for the label in the shrine. Wherever that turns out to be.

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