It’s more than a month now since Valentine’s Day, so maybe it’s the spring weather. In any case, there have been a lot of romantic inscriptions coming through the Receiving Room these days.
I know I have been harsh on those of you who donate books inscribed “To My Itsy-Bitsy Cutsey-Wootsey Honey Pie.” Frankly, for the vast majority of our books, that doesn’t really lower the value one penny. (Occasionally it does, especially when written in ink and dated April 1, 2007 on the title page of a book printed in 1776. Yes, cranberry crumpet, people DO things like that.)
And I don’t object to this little peek into your romantic life. I have only two objections, really, to books with these inscriptions. The one I mention most often is “Don’t YOU object to other people having this peek into your romantic life?” But my philosophy about this, in inscriptions and in $5,000 books, is that if you gave it to us, you must have wanted us to have it.
The other objection I have is that sometimes the peek into your romantic life is just too small. Maybe it’s listening to all those Paul Harvey shows in my youth, but I want to know The Rest Of The Story.
I wouldn’t mind knowing, for example, about this little gift book inscribed with the sentiment, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but lucky me! I have two armfuls of YOU!” I don’t need the measurement of your arms or any specific details. Basically, I want to know what the recipient could possibly have said in reply.
And there’s this book of philosophy which Alice gave Lucy as a gift in May of 1879, including a gift inscription which is not very interesting. Lucy passed it along to Jane in June of 1881, also including a fairly stock gift inscription. Jane’s inscription in 1899, when she apparently passed it along to a daughter, is similarly mundane.
There is a gap in ownership at that point, but on Valentine’s Day, 2005, someone we can call John Doe wrote, “A Gift to My Dearest Dear. Guard It Well, for in one hundred years a future generation of our descent may inscribe it lovingly.” The part of the story is not whether John ever outgrew his resplendent vocabulary, but why (let’s call her) Jane Doe decided to give the book away. It’s only been nine years. Have you given up on descendants? Some trouble between you and John? Or did John donate it after Jane was knocked down by a getaway car filled with diamond smugglers? (If you don’t tell me the story, I can make up whatever soap opera sequence I please.)
Or is it because one of you dropped it and knocked the cover off? I do sometimes wonder about people who donate books with the covers knocked off, but that’s a whole nother blog.
And I’m really far too interested in this postcard that came in. It’s a cute little romantic scene, with a small girl at her window, a cage open for the carrier pigeon she’s expecting. We can see the pigeon in the sky, bearing an envelope with a heart on it. I can, by using my high school French AND Google, I can see that the caption to the picture speaks of sending a sweet message and a long kiss. The girl may be in the act of blowing a kiss. Cute enough.
This card was sent to a Mlle. Yvette around 1911, and I can’t QUITE make out the message written on the back, and when I try to look up the phrases I can read, Google brings up a list of adults-only websites. If anybody who knows anything about a Mlle. Yvette in 1911 will email me and let me know how THIS story worked out, I promise NOT to pass along the story of the two carrier pigeons who walked into a bar.