Friday, 25 April 2014

Books and the History they hold

I love second hand books. This is not the Yorkshireman in me being particular fond of a bargain – of course I am, but that’s not the real reason. I love to think about the history of the book – how it’s been loved and cherished and the various hands it might have been through. I also look for the books with inscriptions “To X with Love” etc. which signify something of the background to the book.

One specific example of this (and I have a small number of my own) is the school prize book (do they still do that now?). Two of my own I remember (which are lingering at my parents somewhere) were ‘Legend of the Stars’ – a book about star constellations and the associated legends and a “Diary of Yesterdays’ – famous incidents on every day of the calendar year from past times.

So I was especially intrigued when I found this in one of my various boxes:

Uncle Tom's Cabin c 1904

It’s one of my older books – coming in at 110 years old and certainly looks like it might have been a rather grand book in its day (the picture not doing the contours and colouring any justice) but it’s not the age, per se, which intrigues me. It’s the certificate on the inside:

City of Leeds Education Committee – School Prize for attendance and Good Conduct to ... is it Mabel Hammond, possibly Isabel or Anabel but I’m erring towards Mabel.

I’m plagued by many questions...

Was this a school specific prize or a city wide prize? How many such prizes were given out – as above the book looks like it might have been a good one and I don’t suppose the average everyman would have been reading this book in 1904.

What about Mabel – how old was she, was she receiving what might seem to be a good education, given her age would she more likely have been married with children by the onset of world war 1 rather than forging a working life (or both) – if married did her family survive the war? My own Great Grandfather would also have been a child in 1904  -he lost his life one week after joining the war in 1917 having seen around 1500 of his ‘Bradford Pals’ colleagues die on the first morning of battle.

This is not a book I want to put on ebay or particularly give away to a random stranger. What I’d really like to do is find out about Mabel, find out about her family and find a descendant to hand this piece of family history over to wherever they may be. Other than paying the likes of I don’t really have the faintest idea where to start, but I have a desire to do it. Where is the ‘Who do you think you are’ team when you need them?

All help and suggestions warmly welcomed

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