My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Books ... almost given away
Over a year ago I wrote a blog-post showing all the books left in my Georgia house. Because of Covid not much has been done with these books last year. I did give away at least a couple of thousands. I have to go through them carefully as my late husband used to insert many items inside the books. I usually place the books in bags and give them to the Library, Goodwill or have the Kidney Foundation come and pick them up.
My late husband read at least 3 or 4 books a week, and I read many as well. Toward the end of his illness he loved to count the books, look at them,reshelf them wherever, and so forth. I cleared up all the books in the two bookshelves in the den and also a big one in the study, but ther are still many books left, as you can see from the bookshelves below.
The little yellow sticky notes show the numbers of books my husband counted. By the look of this bookshelf and on the sides, countaining 500+ books, I can tell that I still have at least 5000 more to go through. My husband had told me that some of his books were valuable, but I don't know exactly where to find their value, and it is time consuming. I usually pile them up in bags keeping only those that I may read later, look interesting, old, or that I like. Of course I have to clear out more than books in the house.
Last month while in Georgia I had several bags ready to go out then remembered that I had placed a couple of old green books in them - had not really checked them. I went back and retrieved them. One was "Russian People" by Princess Cantacuzene. I certainly did not want to give that book away! The first time I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005, I bought several old books on that country, and three books by this author. Julia Dent Grant Speransky, Princess Cantacuzene (1876-1975) was the second grandchild of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. She had married a Russian prince. Here she is below.
She was the eldest child of Frederick Dent Grant and his wife Ida Marie Honoré (of French ancestry.) Julia was born at the White House in 1876. In the 1890s Julia and her aunt traveled to Europe to promote the Chicago World's Fair "World's Columbia Exposition." While in France she met Prince Mikhail Cantacuzene of Odessa, Russia. (Михаи́л Миха́йлович Кантаку́зин, граф) who was the Russian attaché to the Russian Embassy in Rome. After a courtship of two days they became engaged in Cannes. Below vintage postcards of Cannes, France (Cannes is about 18.5 miles (30 km) from Nice, France on the French Riviera.) (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Julia's aunt had leased the Villa Beaulieu for the summer season, a "cottage" owned by the Astor's in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple had a lavish wedding there, in two ceremonies - on September 24 1899 in a private Russian Orthodox ceremony and the following day at All Saint's Memorial Chapel in Newport.
Because I enjoy visiting old historic architecture, I had planned a trip to Newport, RI, in the fall of 2017 with my husband, but unfortunately he was not well enough to travel. I saw that the villa Beaulieu is one of Newport's oldest historic mansions. It was built in 1859 and had several owners, including John Jacob Astor III and Cornelius Vanderbilt III. It was designed to resemble a French chateau, Second Empire style. Here it is below.
The villa has 14,500 square feet, sixteen bedrooms, library, billiard room, a large veranda, etc. Some of the interiors were shown in a real estate magazine last year when it changed ownership. (Photos courtesy Sotheby's.)
The city of Newport, RI, has a long history. It was founded in 1639. It is about 75 miles (119 km) south of Boston. In the mid 19th century southern planters built summer cottages there to escape the heat from the South. By the turn of the 20th century wealthy families from the Gilded Age had built several "summer cottages" (mansions) there.
After their wedding in Newport, the Prince and Princess Cantacuzene went to live in St. Petersburg or at the large (80,000 acres) family estate of Bouromka, in the province of Poltava, in the central Ukraine, on the Vorskla River. In the book that I retrieved from the bag, "Russian People," Julia described in details her life at the estate. It was dominated by her mother-in-law Elizabeth Sicard, who was from a French Huguenot family in Odessa. At the estate everyone spoke French mostly, not Russian. Below is Bouromka.
During her years in Russia she was a witness to the imperial life as well as the Bolshevik Revolution. She wrote 2 other books, Revolutionary Days: Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914-1917, published in 1919, and My Life Here and There, published in 1922. I have all three books (the other two somewhere still on the bookshelves hopefully.) I had forgotten that my book "Russian People" had an autograph by the Princess. I am not sure how valuable this copy is, but it is valuable to me. (Be sure to click on collage to enlarge.)
Princess Cantacuzene's books are lively, giving a close, first witness account on the Russian royal family (she was critical of the unpopular Empress and also of the weak Tsar.) Her reports of the Revolution are spellbinding. She was in St. Petersburg during the bloody "July Crisis" and managed to have her three children (aged 8, 12 and 16) escape with a party of Americans on the Trans-Siberian. Her books are written in an old style - but I read so many old books that I am used to the style.
Usually I read three or four books at the same time. I rarely read on my Kindle or ebooks, I prefer paper. Because of my husband's Alzheimer's disease I try to be careful with my brain. I read several articles on neuroscience that show the way the brain reads on Kindle is different than the way the brain processes reading books (different part of the brains.) (See one article here.) The books below are those I am reading right now.
"I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time."
- Viriginia Woolf, British writer (1882-1941.)
My house is not as full of books as the one above, thankfully ... but I'd love to visit it.
Then I looked at the second green book from the bag of discards. It was one of my husband's, a copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797-1851.) She had published her novel anonymously in 1818. It was translated into French and published in 1821. Finally the first popular British edition, under her name, was published in 1831. It became very popular and was published many many times. I thought I'd place this green book back in the bag. But, just in case, I researched it on the Web; it was good that I did. Below some editions of Frankenstein and my late husband's copy.
It turned out that his 1932 first edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Nino Carbe was the first illustrated edition of the novel published since the 1831 edition. It is a collector's item now. I found a copy, now out of stock, in an antiquarian shop online that was sold, I don't know when, for $500. I found another copy for $950! I guess this green book won't go back in the giveaway bag either. The illustrator, Nino Carbe (1909-1993) was born in Avola, Sicily, and came with his mother three years later to join his dad in America. In his twenties he sent some illustrations to a publishing company that wanted to publish a new illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's book. They accepted all his illustrations. Here are some from my green book.
Nino Carbe was talented in various mediums. In addition to book illustrations, he was a noted artist and worked many years for Walt Disney. From 1938 to 1946 he worked on animated classics, such as Bambi, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia and more. He also illustrated some of the classic children Golden Books and did costume designing. Below he is shown in his car, and some of his work. (Courtesy Nino Carbe Art.)
So I kept those two precious green books, they won't be given away. Have you ever almost thrown out something that turned out to be valuable?
Below is a painting by Bessie Davidson, an Australian-French artist (1879-1965) entitled "Le Livre Vert" (The Green Book.)
"What a blessing it is to love books as I love them, to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal!"
- Thomas Babington Macaulay, British historian (1800-1859.)