Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The third rule of the Spottswood-Greenville Book Club is...

... Lending books outside of Club membership is forbidden.

But let's rewind a little bit and start from the beginning.

A while back, I came across a beaten-up hardcover copy of the 1915 novel "The Seven Darlings" by Gouverneur Morris IV.1 It seemed destined for the donation box or, to be honest, the recycling bin.2

So I carefully flipped through it, of course, and there was a folded-up sheet of paper attached to the second page. Unfolding the paper revealed a stained page with the typed title:

1934 RULES

(Actually it looks like SPOTTSWOOD*GREENWOOD is what was typed at the top, which doesn't make sense from a punctuation standpoint.)

Spottswood and Greenville are tiny communities located about seven miles apart in west-central Virginia. Greenville is census-designated place, while Spottswood shows up as a tiny blip on Mapquest but gets no mention in Wikipedia.3

But those communities were big enough to have a book club 79 years ago. And the club had some slightly Draconian rules.

1. Books shall be exchanged at the monthly club meetings and no book kept longer than one month.

2. If a book is damaged or lost, it must be replaced.

3. Lending books outside of Club membership is forbidden.

"The Seven Darlings" didn't prove to be too popular with club members. There are only two sets of notations under the rules. One that the book was received July 26 and returned September 27, which would be a violation of Rule #1. And one that Mae Williams received the book on November 22, with no return date listed.

The book was owned at some point by Bessie Virginia Fravel (1898-1975) of Spottswood. Perhaps she's the one who provided the book to the club.

1. Pulp novelist Gouverneur Morris IV (1876-1953) was the great grandson of Founding Father Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816). Here are some interesting facts about the older Morris:
  • He is considered to be the author of the Preamble to the United States Constitution.
  • In 1780, his left leg was shattered and replaced with a wooden pegleg.
  • He was one of the few delegates at the Philadelphia Convention who spoke openly against domestic slavery.
  • He died in 1816 after sticking a piece of whale bone through his urinary tract to relieve a blockage.
2. I outlined my stance on books that shouldn't be saved in a footnote to this February 2011 post.
3. Spottswood and Greenville are both located a little south of Staunton, a Virginia city that gets frequent mention here on account of my purchase of a batch of old books from that area a few years ago. Previous posts about Staunton include:

Secondary footnote
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