Monday, August 28, 2006

School boys, boy scouts, and doomed ducks

This weekend we drove to Cleveland to bury Bob's mom's ashes. She died in May. She was a crack-up, a game gal if I ever met one. The first time I met her, I was unaware of the awe with which she was regarded. Her daughters wouldn't smoke in front of her and all her sons- and daughters-in-law called her Mom. So what do I do? I sit down next to her, light up, and call her Frances.

I was therefore always surprised that she accepted me and even seemed to like me, the tattooed atheist who married her baby boy. But she did, and I liked her back.

While we were out there, we dealt with some of the mechanics of distributing and disposing of her stuff. Bob has nine brothers and sisters, and they were cute, trying to get the story straight about objects that had been handed down and around.

Anyway, they asked me to take a look at the books. To make sure there wasn't some priceless rare volume tucked among the copies of The Mill on the Floss and The Song of Bernadette. There were some seriously old primers, late 1800's, and a couple weird books (Ghetto Tragedies I'd like to know more about), but it was all in fairly poor condition, and I was happy to tell them that the books "only" had sentimental value.

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Here are a few pages from the fourth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook. This edition was the first one with a separate handbook for scout leaders. If we'd had one of those, it would be worth about $750. But we didn't.

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This one tells its own story but remains a mystery. I couldn't find School boys Abroad and At Home on nor on eBay. I'll look it up in FirstSearch when I get to work. Published in 1867, it was given as a gift to John McCormick in 1870 as a reward for his singing.

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This is a first reader from 1877. The illustrations are very very good - I know a little about illustrations of animals because I used to spend time with the rare books at AMNH. Love the cat chomping the rat - but that wouldn't have been a shocking sight to the young readers of this book. Also the hawk carrying away the ducky. I bet those kids didn't forget the word 'duck' any time soon!