Book Inscription Mystery Solved!


When I posted Book Inscriptions to Ponder, I was hoping to clear up some of the confusion caused by messy handwriting from more than a century ago. Two inscriptions remain a bit mysterious, but one of them has been cracked! Better still, the most difficult script to read is the one that’s been translated.

It pays to have a friend that works with historical documents. Her expertise with handwritten documents and more importantly with archaic cursive allowed her to pick apart the often confusing inscription from my 1847 Edition of Six Day’s Wonder (American Sunday School Union).


The year, 1847, was the first clue. Part of what made this inscription so difficult to read was not only the scribbled cursive, but the irregular spelling. The concept of a speller and later a dictionary didn’t materialize until 1783 and 1828 respectively. From there spelling standards were gradually implemented, which means irregular spelling was commonplace throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In this particular example, Israel is sometimes spelled with an “E” and bullet may be “bullock.” It’s hard to know for sure, but its as good a guess as any. However, these two irregularities allowed my friend to see the connection to Bible verses from Genesis and Kings.

From there, she was able to piece together a pretty good translation of the script:

… now therefore send to all the parts of Israel and gather (400?) and the people answered not a word and all the people and (the?) they took the bullet (bullock?) and dress it and they called to “se”

Elija (Elias?) said come unto me Israel shall be thy name and he put the bullet how He soiled the God requested that he might die

an angel came and touched him and said rise eat and drink for the journey is great to Isreal …

There are still a few kinks to work out, but with this translation resting next to the original it’s easy to see how it all lines up. Furthermore, we noticed there are a number of pages missing between the page on the left and the right. Who knows what was written to connect these two sides together!

Ah, the fun of old books!

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All credit for this translation goes to my good friend, Rita Ackerman. You can visit her on either of her two blogs to see what she’s up to as a writer, historical researcher, and genealogist:

Rita Ackerman

Tattered Past

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c.b.w. 2016


Book Inscriptions to Ponder


Book inscriptions have long fascinated me and are often the deciding factor in whether I purchase an old, beat up book. Most of my “antique” books are falling apart with brittle pages and water damaged covers. Nothing about them is valuable in the monetary sense, yet they are priceless to me because of what is written on the inside.

Faded ink and fancy script piques my curiosity and adds an element of humanity to an old relic. There are names, years, notations, greetings, and sometimes objects stuffed between the pages. People I’ve never met left a piece of themselves behind and that somehow creates a connection. These old books are almost a portal between the present and a long forgotten past.

I first documented my love of inscriptions a few years back, (see Beautiful Book Inscriptions). With the focus mostly on elegant script or heartwarming stories, there wasn’t much room for the more mysterious books on my shelf. Sometimes the inscription is so confusing or difficult to read, I’m inclined to add it to my collection so I can figure it out!

The three books that follow have some of the more curious inscriptions. The inscriptions aren’t the stuff of mystery novels, but they do make me wonder about the people who wrote them.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, Translated by W.K. Marriott, 1916 Edition (Everyman’s Library, J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.)

The back cover of this edition includes a list that directly quotes parts of The Prince or offers cryptic notations about the text. The entire book is marked up as if it was used by a student. Passages are underlined and countless notes are scribbled in the margins. Within the pages I found a pressed maple leaf. I can’t help but wonder who left behind such detailed and thoughtful notes. Was it the same person who saved the leaf or was that someone else down the line?


Six Day’s Wonder, American Sunday School Union, 1847 Edition

Every blank space in the front and back covers is filled with very messy cursive writing. I can’t read half of it, but given the topic of the book and several mentions of God in the script, it’s most likely religious. The question is whether it’s contemplative, reactionary, summative or philosophical. The writing almost looks hurried and feverish as if this person could not write fast enough. Something was in this person’s head and they just had to get it out before it was gone. Also intriguing is the handwritten notation (in a different script) of an organization’s ownership of the book.

If anyone wants to take a crack at deciphering the script, leave your thoughts in the comments!


Inside Front cover


Inside Back Cover

English and Scottish Popular Ballads, by R. Adelaide Witham, 1909 Edition, The Riverside Press

The inside cover of this little gem is particularly perplexing in that it includes the names of two owners (which isn’t odd at all), but also a list that includes the title of the book itself, (which is curious). All I’ve been able to find out is the names listed are editors of poetry and ballad compilations for student reading. Perhaps one of the owners of this book was creating a shopping or reading list.


Then, of course, are the stories lost to time. Banged up corners, missing pages, and ripped binding all have something to say. Someone a century ago dropped it on the floor or spilled a glass of water. Subtle little mysteries live inside every old book.

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: Knitting Nook


For the last year, all of my knitting supplies have wandered aimlessly through the house. The yarn squatted in a corner by the bookshelf, my tools and current projects took up residence on the dining room table, and my pattern books scattered to just about every room in the house. It was starting to get a little ridiculous.

Part of the problem was I didn’t really have a “thing” that could hold everything or a place where everything could be organized. That all changed this week.

Years ago, my Grandma told me she wanted me to have her sewing cabinet. This week my Grandpa told me I could take it home. It’s an old and beautiful piece of furniture that held all of her thread, needles, buttons, and scissors.  As a child, I spent many hours sitting beside it while learning how to sew. Over the years, its been refinished many times with varnish, paint, and new knobs, but it always looks the same to me! No matter what, I will always see my Grandma opening those drawers.

I was so excited to bring my Grandma’s sewing cabinet home! I stayed up late polishing the wood and cleaning out the drawers. It turns out all my knitting needles fit in the bottom drawer and all my knitting tools fit perfectly into the sections for spools of thread. Finally, a “thing” for my knitting stuff!

I scooted the cabinet into a bay window and everything else just fell into place. The yarn baskets fit snuggly along the side wall. A magazine holder my Grandpa made holds all my previously scattered knitting magazines. Likewise, a wooden stool he made is now a “shelf” for all of my pattern books. The top of the cabinet is the new home for my current project and knitting journal. In addition, a craft lamp I’ve haven’t used in years finally has a place to sit (that isn’t in a closet).


Do you think I have enough yarn?

My little knitting nook makes me want to knit even more than I already do. It’s cozy, warm, and holds beautiful memories of my grandparents. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Beautiful Book Inscriptions


One of my favorite things about shopping in a used a bookstore is finding a book that has an inscription.  Whether it be a name or a note, a handwritten inscription gives my sense of curiosity a jolt.  It’s like I’m getting two stories for the price of one!  During my travels around the world and frequent visits to local used bookstores, I’ve come across my fair share of inscribed books. However, there are a few that really stick out in my mind as being the most interesting.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam (Translated by Edward FitzGerald)

I came across this book at used book fair shortly after starting my career as a teacher.  When I opened it up and saw the inscription, I knew it was kismet that brought me to this book.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

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Ticket to Ride by Dennis Potter

The inscription in this book has baffled me from the very beginning in that I don’t know if it is quoted material from a known writer or if it is a memory written by a poetic soul.  Either way, I find it to be a hilarious beginning to a great story.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

If anyone recognizes these lines, please let me know in the comments! I’ve done everything from library to google searches and have come up with nothing.

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The Vagabond by Colette

When I first picked up this book, I thought it would be a nice weekend read.  After opening the cover and reading such a wonderful letter the book instantly became more meaningful to me as I travel the path of a writer.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Wherever Laura is now, I hope she is living out loud!

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The Right of Way by Gilbert Parker

I’ve always loved this very simple inscription, because 110 years ago someone got this book as a Christmas gift.  I can’t help but wonder how that particular Christmas was celebrated and who the lucky recipient was of such a nice gift.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

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Aside from used bookstores, I’ve inherited a number of books with inscriptions. Sometimes the signatures relate to past and present family members, while others do not.  Either way, they are very special to me as I remember seeing the writing in these books as a child.

Stories of Great Musicians (Eclectic Readings Series)

This book sat on my grandparents’ bookshelf the entire time I was growing up. I must have read it dozens of times! I wonder if Edward practiced the way Mary hoped he would.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photob by: c.b.w. 2012

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The Complete Works of Shakespeare

My grandmother owned this edition for a long time before handing it down to my aunt, who then gave it to me.  It’s one of my treasured possessions as I love Shakespeare and the history that has gathered in the pages of the leather-bound beauty. I love it when a list of names fills up the first page of a book like a family tree of sorts.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

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Holy Bible

My grandmother held this book in her hands when she was a little girl.  I’ve had it since I was about 13 years old and have somehow managed to keep an inscribed loose page from wandering off!

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

 Every book on my shelf has a story, but those with ink-stained pages are the ones I love best.

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Special Note: You don’t have to squint to read these fantastic inscriptions. Click on any image for a full-size view!

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c.b.w. 2012