Following Auntie’s “Book of Nature,” here are some more books inherited with her other possessions from Derwen. I am an old-fashioned librarian, and, regardless of my expertise with online research databases, I still love books. And I really love old books. Our family is fortunate to have a few of these precious heirlooms on the shelves of our various homes, which I will feature in my next few posts.
Starting with these 2 beautiful 19th century editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – not, alas, the hugely valuable first editions, but printed a few years later in 1869 and 1887 respectively. Like most children I always loved these stories, and I still treasure the books. What makes these particular copies special, however, is the history behind them.
Like most of the items from Derwen, they belonged to Auntie’s cousin and lifelong companion, Elsie Fry. The inscriptions inside the books tell the full story:
This inscription inside the first book, the 1869 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, reads: “Maggie, With Uncle Robert’s dear love, Llwyn Derw 29th Jany. 1870”. On the previous page, another inscription has been added, 16 years later:
This one reads “E. Fry, from Mother, 1886”, followed by “E. Fry” stamped in purple ink. Elsie Fry’s mother was Margaret Fry, nee Horman-Fisher, of Llwyn Derw. I love the way this little bit of family history is captured in these inscriptions: Margaret is given a new copy of the book by a fond uncle, and later passes it on to her daughter. The daughter keeps it to the end of her life, when it passes to her cousin, then to that cousin’s second cousin (my mother), and then to me. I plan to give or bequeath them to my little nieces one day, one of whom is named Alice, after our paternal grandmother.
The second book also carries an inscription, although there is less of a story to it:
This one reads simply “Wynnie & Elsie Fry, Oct 1888” – so Elsie must have had to share this copy of Through the Looking Glass with her sister, Wynyfryde. There were four Fry sisters in all – Elsie, Wynnie, Edith, and Kitty – so I am sure that, like my nieces, they were used to sharing.
Today, more than 150 years after they were first published, the influence of Lewis Carroll’s work pervades every aspect of our culture. Yesterday, for instance, I treated myself to a “wagon wheel” biscuit from my local vegan cake shop. And look what greeted me upon opening the wrapper: