Sometimes, you need a little break from reality. Where better to turn than a ripping adventure novel? Here are a few from our collections.
A large (8×12) illustrated edition of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, as Related by Himself, by Daniel Defoe, published by McLoughlin Brothers, 1897. The flyleaf is inscribed “Mary Elinor England, from Aunt Mattie.” Mary England (later Ward) was born near Shady Grove in 1901, and moved with her family to Rockville around 1917. The book was donated by her son, who may have (probably?) read it himself as a child.
A nice little undated edition of Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, published by W.B. Conkey around 1910. The inside cover is inscribed “Eugenia Warfield, Gaithersburg, Md.” It belonged either to Eugenia H. Warfield (1873-1963) or her daughter Eugenia Elizabeth Warfield (born 1907); the Warfields lived in Laytonsville, but the younger Eugenia probably attended high school in Gaithersburg, and the donor (Eugenia Elizabeth’s nephew) believed that all the books in this donation related to schoolwork.
And last but not least, a personal favorite: The Prisoner of Zenda, Being the History of Three Months in the Life of an English Gentleman, by Anthony Hope, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1898. This edition features “four full-page illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson,” including the frontspiece. (If you don’t know anything about this book, it’s worth clicking on the title link to check out the plot summary – you’ll either want to run out and read it, or will be glad to know to avoid it.) The flyleaf is inscribed “Maria Waters. 1912.” Miss Waters (1895-1970) of Germantown also owned the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, From the Memoirs of Fritz von Tarlenheim, in a 1923 movie tie-in edition. I always wonder: did she wait ten years to read the sequel? (Both books were first published in the 1890s.) Or was the 1923 book a replacement for an earlier volume that she loaned out, or lost? Both books were donated by Maria’s great-niece.
Part 1 of “What are you reading?” included the readers’ notes and reflections on various works; in these cases, we have their novels, but not their opinions. Yet all three books (and Rupert of Hentzau, not shown here) are far from pristine; they have loose pages, rubbed corners, broken spines, and other hallmarks of a well-used book. In addition, all were saved through at least two generations. I think it’s safe to assume that they were read many times (or at least, read once, but hard) and were enjoyed enough that they were kept, to savor again.