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.)


Divers and Sundry said...

It can be a joy to be surrounded by so many books! I have gradually pared down. I never had anything of any real commercial value and finally decided that donating them was the way to go. It looks like you've had your work cut out for you with this project, but what treasures you've found and so many happy memories they've brought you :)

Elephant's Child said...

I find culling books hard. We have lots and lots though I doubt that any are of significant value.
I am so glad that you saved those green books.
Like you I read more than one book at a time - generally a fiction and a non fiction one.
Be well.

Cloudia said...

What a treasure you are, and what treasures you share. This is a week or a month's worth of posts here! Yes one develops a skill for reading archaic books.

DJan said...

I didn't know that about how the brain receives information differently from Kindles. I'll look it up, since I use mine occasionally but much prefer hard copy. That autograph is in such beautiful script! Thank you for such a wonderful and interesting post. :-)

Lowcarb team member said...

Thank goodness you saved those green books.

All the best Jan

Susan Heather said...

I found it hard culling books when Doug and I got married. You have a big job ahead of you. There must be some wonderful books in your collection.

Kay said...

When we moved back to Hawaii, we sold a (small) room full of books. I now read books only on my Kindle. Gosh! I didn't know it made a difference.
That is so interesting about Princess Cantacuzene. Two day courtship? Wow!

Hels said...

I feel so sorry for you :(

It was essential in this household to get rid of 2000 fabulous books, keeping only those that were still relevant for our careers, or those that were important for their family connections. After stuffing around for 2 years, I finally got them into boxes and carried the boxes to the front door, waiting for the book seller to bring his truck. That very week, in March 2020, the book seller rang to say that Covid had shut him down. Now in March 2021, I haven't the strength to put the books back in our libraries or to sell them to someone else.

Christine said...

I have yet to start on my husband's books.... clothes or anything else.... it's the one day thing. I love the story about the Princess,thank you for sharing.

Rhodesia said...

When we left South Africa I got rid of most of our books, though I did keep many reference books. Some now I really regret having got rid of and also the other thing I have away was all our music records, another big regret but sadly it cannot be undone. Take care of what you throw out and hopefully, you will not have regrets like I have

I hope all is well, keep safe, Diane

David said...

Hi Vagabonde, Wow! I thought that our thousand or so books was a lot...just a minor accumulation in comparison to yours. It sounds like you have some valuable books among the 5,000 or so that you still have. Slow and steady reviews will save you money/potential money for sure. When my mother died, we found that she too had put things in books...including $10 and $20 bills! We had given some of her art books to a local museum and they called to tell us that they found $300 in the books...which we told them to keep. We did check all the other books and came up with some decent spending money. We agree with you on hard copy print vs. kindle. There is something tactilely satisfying in actually holding and reading a book! Interest history lesson about Princess Cantaguzene. We have been to Newport and toured several of those gilded age homes. Very interesting and enjoyable indeed. Love the old postcards that you use with your posts. I collect old postcards (pre-1915 mostly USA) and stamps too. I probably have 1100 - 1200 French Stamps and another thousand from former colonies and possessions. (Unfortunately nothing of great value as stamp collecting is a dying hobby) Great post as usual! Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Jeanie said...

What a fascinating post. I have to say that the hardest thing for me to part with are books. Clothes? No problem? Most things, not too much of a problem if there isn't a story attached. But books are hard. I want them to go to people who will love them and of course, that can be a limited group. I read paper books (real books) too. I spend enough time on the computer as it is -- I don't need to read there, too!

The Princess book was one worth keeping and I'm so glad you checked and pulled it from the pile. That's a lot of books -- I can see why it is such an enormous job.

Arti said...

Amazing collections of books you have. I can see there must be treasures in there, maybe first editions, rare books and collector's items. Contacting an antiquarian book dealer could be one source of help. Take photos and send to him/her. Just a thought. And since you're so interested in history, and the arts, I've come across a documentary on one of the pioneers of the cinema and filmmaking: Alice Guy-Blaché. A must-see. And I'm sure you'll be interested as she was making film first in Paris, before coming over to America. I've just posted more info on my blog Ripple Effects today as it's International Women's Day. Do check that film out. You'll love it.

Roderick Robinson said...

And I thought we were over-stuffed with books, but we're not in the same league. Also we tend to favour paperbacks for their portability and because they don't complicate matters as older books do - bringing in the matter of intrinsic value as opposed to purely intellectual value.

My wife, who reads about 220 books a year, is far more willing to discard books than I am. As the years have passed by I've become even more Scrooge-like; I haven't used the public library for more than ten years, preferring to buy, which makes me me hang on to what I've got. In my own defence I do re-read books but I have to confess my book consumption is only a fraction of what it was. Writing novels tends to squeeze out reading and, in any case, I find myself reading fiction in a more technical way, assessing plot structure, appreciating concise dialogue, identifying style. Even when I'm not writing I'm often thinking about what I will write - wondering what unexpected detours lie ahead.

Nadezda said...

Dear Vagabonde,
You have so many books, of course it is difficult to review everything and select what can be left and what can be given away. How interesting you talked about Princess Cantacuzene. This is the first time I hear about her and would also like to read her books. But most likely they were not published in Russian.

Glenda Beall said...

I am trying to find homes for my books, a couple are very old, but not of so much value.
When I go to give away books, I find I want to keep them and read them again or read them for the first time. I listen to books now more than read them, but I love having the books. The Princess story is wonderful and your photos are always special. Your blog is like a photographic essay. I know you have a big job ahead with clearing out your Georgia house. I am thinking I need to clear out my stuff. I am mailing something special to a friend tomorrow. It helps when I can give them to people I know will cherish them or enjoy them. Your posts are excellent and I look forward to them. Thanks.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What treasures! I love books. When we moved west from NY to Colorado I had to give away/donate so many books as it was too expensive to move them all. The Russian People book is very interesting to me as my grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine I'm glad you saved it from your donation pile!

Joared said...

I find it very difficult to part with my books. I do need to gradually part with them. I donate a few to our local Friends of the library where they’re offered for resale at a dollar or two a piece. But i have so many i need to find other places to take them. Enjoyed this blog post.

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