Monday, August 4, 2014

The Book Witch

This post is a departure from my normal approach, but I just have to share this with the Morse blog readers. I'm sometimes known as the 'book witch' to my colleagues at work. That's because I often have uncanny luck or experience a coincidental act that is surprising. Last week, such an event happened in relation to Alice C. Morse and thankfully, several of my colleges were with me to see it. It left us speechless.

Every third Saturday in July is Tivoli (NY) yard sale day. Tivoli is a little village on the Hudson River. There's not much there but houses, a post office, churches and a few restaurants. No school, no gas station, no grocery store. I usually prefer to be a participant and shop, but this year, several of my friends joined me in my front yard to sell stuff. One of my co-workers and her fiancĂ© drove up from Staten Island to go to the sale and stay over. With so much company I didn't get to go to the sale at all, but suggested that we go to the church thrift shop because they were having a big sale.  I went along to show them the way. There were a lot of cars near the church, so we parked quite far away. I got out of the car in front of a suburban home. Their yard sale was almost over, with only a few things left. Mark commented that there was a gaming chair (not that I knew what that was) so we walked over.

On a folding table in front of the house there were two objects -- a bee bee gun and three books. There was a two-volume set of The Woman's Book (designed by Alice C. Morse) in good condition and a 19th century cook book by Marion Harland. I was in disbelief. We all were. I told the woman I wanted them and asked how much she was asking. She said, "I have to call my son, they're his." I waited for the call, then received an answer. "Five dollars for all three" she said.

There are only two or three of Morse's books that I know of, but don't have in my collection and The Woman's Book was one of them. It is the one I discussed in a post on House and Home. The Woman's Book is  Morse's original design; House and Home is an adaptation of the design. For reasons unknown, was issued with two titles. Here is the post if you'd like to read more about it:

This experience reminded me of the day, over twenty years ago, that I found Alice Morse's book covers in a box in the Met's print department. I was just snooping around, as usual, looking for book-related treasures. It was a life-transforming experience which took me on a very long journey, and really, it's not over yet, as I'm still finding Morse designs, as this blog shows. Since then, I've always felt Alice by my side, and in a way she's become kind of a relative, a mentor and a friend (if that's possible). I feel as though I have helped her to be known again, as she was in her heyday, and she has helped me become a better scholar, historian, and writer. I've learned discipline and patience from Alice and to hold myself to a high bibliographic and artistic standard. So thank you Alice and thank you for sending me the books for my birthday!

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