Friday, August 8, 2014

Treasure from 1809

At the last book sale I attended, I was fortunate to discover a little treasure from 1809. It is a survivor, worn and separated from its companion volumes, from the Regency era: a book, by Miss Maria Edgeworth, Volume II of "Tales of Fashionable Life".

I cannot explain to you the thrill, for me, of encountering a genuine piece of Regency life. This book might have been read by one of my characters! (For I do visualize my characters as real Regency people.) This book was held by a person wearing a silk gown and a cap, or jean half-boots, or a tail coat and pantaloons. It might have been read in post-chaise, or a drawing room, or the Bath Pump Room. My mind reels with the possibilities.

The printer is Wood and Innes of Poppin's Court, Fleet Street
It is a small book--4 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches--with worn brown marbled covers and a brown leather spine and corner caps. The pages are foxed, and there is that indefinable old book smell that intoxicates book collectors. It is certainly legible, and no pages are missing.

Of course an antique such as this has been through many hands, and the people who owned the book are nearly as interesting as the book itself. Inside the front cover of my treasure is this inscription:
I discovered that Ormiston Hill is in Kirknewton, Fife, nearby Edinburgh. It is also known as Black Cairn Hill. Ormiston Hill House was a 17th century building, home of the Wilkie family. It was replaced after 1851 by Ormiston House in the Scots Baronial style. I know nothing more of Miss Margaret except that she owned this book!

And one more survivor--tucked into the pages of the book is a calling card. It is certainly Victorian, but I have no expertise in dating such ephemera.

I feel that it might be 1860's or 1870's, but I have no basis for that other than the look of the artwork. It surprises me that there is no 'Miss' before the name, and the name itself is interesting; an unusual spelling of Charlotte, I believe.

I wonder what Margaret and Sharlet thought of Miss Edgeworth's stories. Did they have all three small brown volumes? And if so, when did the other two volumes become parted from this one?

An antique book tells two stories: the one printed on its pages, and the other--more mysterious--of its travels, and its owners.

'Til next time,