Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Book Surprise

You know me - it's not unusual that I buy a book or two, now and then. The other day was one of those days - I spotted A Fairy Leapt Upon My Knee by Bea Howe mentioned in the Sylvia Townsend Warner / David Garnett letters, and it sounded like it might be useful for my thesis, as well as quite interesting. Bea Howe was a friend of Sylvia TW's, as well as Bloomsbury enough to warrant this rather nice portrait by Duncan Grant:

Anyway, said book arrived. Or, rather I had to go to the Royal Mail Sorting Office and pay £1.97 to get it, because the people sending it hadn't put enough stamps on the parcel. I was a little miffed about this, but soon didn't mind AT ALL. Here is the book (and I've taken the opportunity to show you the new cushion I bought, called 'Moggy')

I opened the parcel whilst I walked down street, as one does, and flipped it open... this is what I saw:

Could this be true? Could this copy be from the library of Richard Garnett, the editor of the Garnett/Warner letters? Surely a coincidence?

And then my eyes flicked over to the right-hand side... and there it was:

OHMYGOODNESS. David Garnett, much beloved (to me) author of Lady into Fox had owned this book. The book I bought because it was mentioned in his published letters. I got home and checked the signature against his online - they matched.

Breathe, Simon, breathe.

Any books in your libraries that are exciting for similar reasons? The nearest I've had before was the copy of The Priory by Dorothy Whipple which I bought, and discovered upon arriving home held her signature. Fun!


  1. How exciting for you! The most exciting find I have had is an E.M. Dalafield signature on my copy of The Provincial Lady in Wartime.

  2. That's cool! Can't say I have any books that interesting.

  3. Not as exciting as yours, but I came across two recently. One is "Mother from Owens Xmas '07" and the other "Norah Winifred Ryan with love from Mother Oct 4th 1905" - which made me wonder about Owens and Norah and their mothers, and where these books have been since then. I love inscriptions, and previous owners' names.

  4. I once bought in a second hand shop a very small history of the Book of Common Prayer - and inside was a letter from Sybil Thorndike (later Dame ST - the actress for whom Shaw wrote St Joan) apologising for not being able to come and open the church fete.

  5. I opened a book the other day and saw..... that it was due back at the library 10 days previously ;-) Not a pleasant discovery!
    Well done you.

  6. You must have been beaming, lucky you!

  7. I have a copy of Sarah Orne Jewett's book Deephaven, not a first edition but a lovely decorated binding, that Jewett inscribed to a friend and signed. That's probably my most exciting inscription, but I adore all the love and kind thoughts inscribed in many older books.

  8. You will not be surprised to know that for me the answer is no!

    I am not really concerned about previous owners, it doesn't make a book more interesting for me (it doesn't detract either)

  9. Provincial Homemaker - gosh, that is so exciting! I do have a book signed by EMD, but I knew it would be when I bought it, and certainly paid for the fact!

    Susan - I was so excited!

    Lisa May - I do love inscriptions from previous owners, especially when they've put some thought into them. Although Xmas '07 isn't that long ago!

    Dad - what a pity you can't find this... maybe it'll turn up.

    Mum - tut tut!

    Darlene - I couldn't believe it!

    Joan - how lovely. And I agree, non-famous inscriptions can be equally wonderful to find. That's one of the joys of secondhand books.

    Peter - I actually am quite surprised. I know we don't have many interests in common, but I thought we were both interested in people!

  10. I love that Duncan Grant portrait (and OVW's reply!)

    ps...Just finished PL in London -brilliant!- and just started 'The Summer Book.' Not quite sure how I seem to ONLY read books that you recommend now.

  11. Oh that's so exciting, I don't think I've ever had quite such an exciting find in my books! Have just finished reading 'The Summer Book' as I had it on my shelf and saw you had recommended it and I loved it immensely. Now on to 'Lady into Fox'. I think I might need to come and live quietly on your bookshelves :)

  12. Hi Simon, people fascinate me, but not so much their artefacts - even their books they wrote in! Now perhaps if it was Newton's own copy of one of his key works ... I do have a few "people" related books but they are important to me because of the person who gave them not the previous owner (unless the same).

  13. You're so lucky.

  14. What a story! And what a piece of luck. I love to speculate about the past owners of a book and love an inscription, even though I don't like writing in books myself. I got a copy of Anne of Green Gables recently, which was obviously awarded to Isabelle Corney in 1941 - For sustained hard work and perseverance.

    And I am even more intrigued by Richard Garnett now...

  15. It was Xmas 1907 - much more interesting!

  16. Daniel - isn't the painting lovely? I do like the Bloomsbury painters a lot. And so pleased you liked Tove Jansson! And am amused by how similar your message is to Terri's below yours...

    Terri - so pleased you loved Summer Book! You can't beat Jansson for atmosphere.

    Peter - curious how our minds work! I find books (rather than any other possessions) the best way to have a connection with another person. But I think I love books-as-objects rather more than yuo do!

    the eclectic reader - I know!

    Nick - I'm exactly the same; I hate writing in books, but I love it when previous owners have written something.

    Lisa May - ah, of course, that was silly of me!

  17. Breaking my lurking habit at last to say, Wow!

    That's an amazing stroke of luck and when it happens,these things often don't feel like purely luck but somehow "meant to be".

    My husband tends to be lucky in that sort of way but I think that's partly because his interest is mainly in local history and there's a smaller cast involved, if you know what I mean!

  18. What a wonderful suprise Simon! It's exciting enough to get the book without a bonus inside:)


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