Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Mystery at Penmarth" oddball?

Back in February, I wrote about the hard-to-find American first edition of Ruth Manning-Sanders' juvenile novel Mystery at Penmarth. That was the 1941 hardcover published by Robert M. McBride, and it came the year after the original 1940 publication by Collins of London.

In cruising around eBay, I have now discovered what appears to be a Mystery at Penmarth curiosity, the cover of which is shown above.

Here is how it's described in the eBay listing: "1940. 288 pages. No dust jacket. This is an ex-Library book. Blue and green pictorial boards. Ex-Library with the usual stamps, stickers, marks and inserts. Contains black and white illustrations. Marks and tanning to endpapers and text block edges. Crisp pages with bold text. Illustrations are clear and bold. Mildly rubbed and marked laminated boards with shelf wear."

Furthermore, the publisher is listed as Collins and the year is 1940. Although, certainly, eBay listing details can be wrong. In fact, I'm somewhat confused, because a copy of Mystery at Penmarth with this exact description is listed on both eBay (shipping from the United Kingdom) and on Amazon (shipping from Florida). So something's fishy.

Setting aside the mystery of what book is for sale and who is selling it, this eBay listing does seem to indicate that this cover exists somewhere, somehow. It looks like a special library binding, designed for more wear and a longer shelf life. That would make it a separate release from the UK or American hardcover. And this library edition might have be issued by McBride, rather than Collins, as the American school library market was probably more robust.

I'm going to try to do some cross-checking and see if this illustration was pulled from the interior of one of those editions, which would be a big clue as to the publisher, since each edition had its own artist.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"The Valley of Hell" in Germany's Black Forest

My scanner doesn't really do justice to this full-page illustration, which is within the pages of an amazing 1882 book titled The Heart of Europe, From the Rhine to the Danube, A Series of Striking and Interesting Views. The 143-page volume is filled with scenes from throughout Europe that, in most cases, haven't existed for a century or more. I'm hoping to scan and share more of those images, moving forward.

Shown in this illustration is Höllental, which translates to "The Valley of Hell" or "Hell's Valley." It's a gorge that's about 5½ miles long and is located within the southern portion of Schwarzwald, the famed Black Forest, in Germany.

Leo de Colange, who wrote the text for The Heart of Europe, writes a good bit about Schwarzwald, but nothing specifically about Hell's Valley. I did, however, find this relevant and wonderful passage from The Universe: Or, The Infinitely Great and the Infinitely Little, an 1870 book by Félix-Archimède Pouchet:
"Almost all these imposing gorges are the effect of convulsions of the globe, and the first glance shows that they have resulted from a violent fracture of the mountains and separation of the fragments. We can identify these great fissures by the similarity which their walls present in respect to the layers of which they are formed, and by the irregularity of their chasms, in the depths of which reign shade and terror. Our superstitious ancestors, overcome by the awe which these darksome clefts inspired, often gave them names expressive of the dread they gave rise to; as, for instance, calling them hell valleys, hell holes, or devil's gorges.

"In all high mountains, such as the Alps and Pyrenees, we see some which are thus designated. But certainly one of the most remarkable of these gorges is the Hell Valley in the Black Forest. I passed through it during a severe winter, and nothing could equal the dark horror it inspired. Masses of snow hung suspended on its buttresses, and their whiteness contrasted strongly with the gloomy mouth of the infernal abyss. This portico to the domains of Pluto, though ample of entrance, was yet shrouded in impenetrable darkness towards the bottom. The ancient Hercynian Forest, which we had just traversed, was buried under half a yard of rime; the cold was 25 below freezing-point (Fahr.); and our vehicle, in spite of the skids, which made large showers of ice fly on all sides, dragged us with frightful rapidity towards the precipice. It was altogether superb, and vividly recalled the icy forests of the north."
For a less-terrifying, and frankly gorgeous, look at the Black Forest and one of its gorges, please check out photographer and travel blogger Melanie Fontaine's 2015 post "Hiking in the Black Forest, Germany: The Wutach Gorge."

Great woman in Pennsylvania history: Martha Maxwell

Mom's possessions, handed down from previous generations, included a small collection of cartes de visite. These early "trading cards," which predated cabinet cards and were about half their size, measure 2½ inches by 4⅛ inches. The collection included cards of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, cards of named and unnamed relatives and one card featuring two little people that is simply and unfortunately labeled "midgets" on the back.

One of the cards that captured my attention the most is the one shown above, featuring a serious-looking woman holding a gun. The back of this carte de visite is blank. But, as you can see, the following is printed on the front:

Mrs. M.A. Maxwell's
Copy-right Secured.

That's Mrs. M.A. Maxwell herself pictured on the card. Her full name is Martha Ann Maxwell (born Martha Dartt in 1831 in Tioga County, Pennsylvania), and she was a naturalist, artist and pioneering American taxidermist who led a really amazing life. (Don't let the rifle fool you into thinking she was another Annie Oakley, though.) Here are some highlights from Maxwell's Wikipedia biography:

  • When she was young, her grandmother, Abigail Stanford, first instilled a love of nature in her by taking her for walks in the woods.
  • She and her husband, James, joined the Colorado Gold Rush of 1860. While he pursued mining, she did washing and mending and baked pies to earn her own income. She made her own investments, too, and bought an interest in a boarding house, some mining claims and a one-room log cabin near Denver, Colorado.
  • "In 1861 the boarding house burned down, leaving Maxwell with no way to earn an income and the family no place to live. The plan was to move to the cabin that Maxwell had bought, but when they got there, they found that a claim jumper had moved into the cabin. They took the squatter to court, and the decision came down in favor of the Maxwells, but the man living in their cabin refused to move out. Maxwell waited until the man finally left the cabin on an errand. She removed the door from the frame and she entered the cabin and found among the man's possessions perfectly preserved stuffed birds and animals. The claim jumper was a taxidermist by training. Maxwell proceeded to put everything out on the prairie and reclaim her property. She soon wrote to family members requesting a book that would help her 'to learn how to preserve birds and other animal curiosities in this country.'"
  • "She made trips into the Rockies, where she gathered chipmunks, various species of squirrels and birds. By the fall of 1868 Martha had prepared almost 100 specimens, ranging from chicks to hawks, and hummingbirds to eagles. She was asked to display her work at the Colorado Agricultural Society exhibition. Attendees particularly admired that Maxwell created an entire natural habitat for each species, making it appear as if they were still alive. Her work was acknowledged with a $50 prize [about $915 today] and a diploma."
  • "Maxwell developed her own way of preserving the animals by molding them in plaster and then covering these molds with the animals skin which she had preserved. She later used iron frames over which to stretch the skins, rather than sewing the skins together and stuffing them, as most other taxidermists did."

By Centennial Photographic Co., photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • She opened her own Rocky Mountain Museum in Boulder, Colorado, in the 1870s. Also during that decade, she produced a wildly popular exhibit for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 — the first World's Fair held in the United States. The large natural-habitat diorama (pictured above) that she constructed for her taxidermied animals might have been the first of its kind. Press coverage was immense and the exhibition's official photography firm was unable to keep up with demand for images.
  • "After Maxwell's death [in 1881, at age 49] her daughter contracted with a man in Saratoga Springs, New York, to exhibit and/or sell the collection. The collection was exhibited several times but was then placed into storage. Unfortunately it was not put away carefully and pieces began to disintegrate. In 1920 Maxwell's sister, Mary, tried to retrieve the collection and planned to donate work to the University of Colorado. However, the pieces had aged badly and there was nothing worth preserving."

Additional reading about Martha Ann Maxwell

Finally, here's a closer look at Maxwell and her dog.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Suggested September bulletin board from Hayes School Publishing Co.

This is a September classroom bulletin board suggestion for teachers from the groovy 1978 book Hayes Tips and Clues for Every Bulletin Board, published by Hayes School Publishing Company of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. I'll be posting from this nostalgia-laden, spiral-bound tome each month as we work our way through the 2017-18 school year.

Here's the description for this board:
The message is clear: "Come to school and have fun in learning!" Make the balloons by using large circles of construction paper. Use pictures cut from magazines to show school activities and glue onto "balloons." Be certain to main good color contrast between "balloons" and magazine pictures.

Pro tip: On second thought, if you thinking of putting an old-school display like this together for your pupils this fall, you might want to skip the balloon theme entirely. Especially red balloons. Also, the paper-boat-making activity is right out. Spend time teaching your children to fear nothing. And make sure they have access to plenty of good stones. Urge them to walk home in groups.

Related posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

Postcard: "Redbay and Castle"

Here's an old postcard that was left over from the Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon. The sepia-toned card is labeled on the front as "REDBAY AND CASTLE, ANTRIM COAST RD." This location is Country Antrim, located along the coast of northeastern North Ireland. Sitting atop the hill, in the upper-right corner of the image, are, indeed, the ruins of Red Bay Castle (or Caislen Camus Rhuaidh in Irish).

The castle was built in the 13th century, and, like many castles, it was host to battles and murders and weddings and family intrigue over the centuries. It was totaled and rebuilt several times, so you would probably want to check its Carfax history if you're interested in buying it.

It looks like the most "recent" destruction came at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, in the 17th century. And not much was done, restoration-wise, after that. Indeed, these are just ruins now.

The website features some modern photographs of the site and states: "This is a small ruin, with little distinctive features but there are great views from the site of the great landscape around you." Unfortunately, it's also noted that the ruins are located on a private farmland and there is no public access.

This real-photo postcard was published by E.A. Schwerdtfeger & Company of London and printed in Berlin. According to The Postcard Album, E.A.S. was established in 1894 and expanded with the acquisition of a rival company in 1920.

This card — the mailing date of which I can't make out, via the postmark — was sent to Miss Dora Lewis, Rangeley Lakes, Mountain View House, Maine. Dora was previously mentioned in this July 2016 post.

The note states:

you would love
this old castle!
Port Rush is fine —
great place for

"Port Rush" is Portrush, Northern Ireland, a resort town well known for its golf.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Romaine Smith's pixie-laden bookplate from the 1930s

How about another bookplate? This one is about 3½ inches wide and features an illustration of some tiny pixies or brownies or fairies (or such) lounging around outdoors. In the lower-right corner of the bookplate, the words DENNISON - USA are printed.

"Romaine Smith" is written in tidy cursive on the bookplate, and the inscription on the next page states the following:

M. Romaine Smith,
1230 E. Maple St.,
York, Penna.
Dec. 25, 1935

That is likely Martha Romaine (Smith) Guise, a York native who was born in 1923 and died in March 2012, at age 88. According to her obituary, "she was a United States Navy veteran of World War II [and] served in the WAVES and was honorably discharged as a Pharmacist's Mate Third Class in 1946."

As for the book that contains this bookplate, it's Hilda's Mascot (subtitle: "A Tale of 'Maryland, My Maryland'"), which was written by Mary E. Ireland (1834–1927) and published by The Saalfield Publishing Company in 1927. The dust jacket was still intact. Here's a look at the front cover and spine portions of that jacket, which features the work of artist Corinne R. Bailey.