Friday, February 10, 2012

Sepia Saturday 112 : Life Between Two Marble Bookends

I never imagined that it would be so difficult to come up with something to fit this weeks' Sepia Saturday theme - Books. Over the last few days I must have searched through almost every old family photograph I have, looking for elusive volumes, only to find that they are as rare as hens in a dental surgery. 

If I spread my net a little wider and go outside my own family I can find a scattering of books, but even these tend to be used as props. This picture from the studios of J C Gray in Paddington, London shows what looks like a father and two sons. The father, who seems to  want to be seen in profile, appears to have a long body and short arms and the two volumes seem just the thing for keeping him evenly balanced; like a folded envelope shoved under a short table leg. What the volumes are, I have no idea : but a book is a book in the land of the photographically illiterate.

If I look back to my own youth, there were some books in the house: but precious few. My mother had a Mrs Beeton's Cookbook and my father had two Daily Mail pictorial volumes on the history of the world wars. There was a gazetteer entitled "Romantic Britain" and a curious book entitled "Everybody's Book Of Fate And Fortune" These volumes were proudly displayed on the top of a cupboard between two marble bookends.

I am sure that my childhood home was no different to hundreds of other northern working class homes. Form books would be more prevalent than great books and stories were what you listened to on the radio rather than read about in a book. But that doesn't stop me fantasising of a youth enriched by literature and learning, of a young lad who would save his tuppence spending money, don his best sailor suit and go off to the second-hand bookshop to buy a new supply of precious books.

We are a lucky generation: one way or another we have access to an almost limitless supply of books, whether they be printed on musty old paper or a bright computer screen. We are also the first generation to have the time and the means available to write our own histories. And fantasies can be turned into historical fact with a little help from Uncle Photoshop.

THIS WEEK'S SEPIA SATURDAY THEME IS "BOOKS". TURN THE PAGE AND VISIT THE SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG TO READ ALL ABOUT IT.


29 comments:

  1. Fascinating! All of it. Glad I stopped by today.

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  2. The top lot are obviously the James Gang. The two tykes in the smaller photo could be Butch Burnett and the Huddersfielf Kid.

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  3. Come to think of it I can't recall books in our house until the late 1940s/early 50s. There was no shortage of library books from the school just across the road. How things have changed in my lifetime - now we've run out of room to keep them.The young lad in the smaller photo seems pleased to be holding books.

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  4. HA -- when I read the title, I thought you were referring to the people in the photo as if they were stiff like marble bookends. At least they're all handsome! Love the kid with his mouth flung open.

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  5. That's quite the tome you're "holding" there in your stack of must-reads. Ah, the joys of rewriting history. A time honored tradition. And now, yes, we get to write our own.

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  6. Perhaps people were too poor to have a lot of books until the 50's and then with economic growth "regular" working class families were able to have more books. I recall my own family buying lots of books in the mid-50's, but no, we never did have books in our photos. Interesting.

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  7. Books..when I grew up we had..a Bible, an old veterinary manual that was so dirty it was in the garage, True Grit Magazines and my Dads War/Girlie Magazines under the seat of the car. My Mother was not a reader..so were never had bedtime stories..etc..or trips to the Library. I never take books for granter and I am secretly a book hoarder..and now I have a Kindle Fire!! (Just another place to hoard books so I will never run out.)
    You are pretty good at that Photoshop stuff:)

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  8. I don't remember many books in my home(s) either. I'm an air force brat and we moved a lot and that probably explains it- wouldn't be fun or cheap to move large amounts of books every four years. I do remember the World Book set though. I did many a homework assignment with those.

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  9. The comments here are almost as good as the post itself. That's one of the things I love about your blog in particular. You always seem to invite good discussion. Like Wendy, I also thought you were referring to the people in the photo as marble bookends.

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  10. My grandma had a full set of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia and we didn't seem to need any other books. The love of books was born in me through them though. As for your PS skills, they go in a different direction from mine but are still creditable. And... 'as rare as hens in a dental surgery' has to be my quote of the week. I must find a way of using it in conversation as often as possible.

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  11. I have photos of my father reading a newspaper, but the only book he read religiously was the dictionary. He was a newspaper printer and had to expand his vocabulary. I still remember the Bible salesman who sold us a huge and gorgeous volume.

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  12. My dad couldn't resist buying books on an auction sale. This was in the 30's. so when I came along there were some old ragged books in the house.

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  13. Two of them certainly look like brothers, but I'm not so sure about the third (in profile). He looks too young to be their father. It's certainly an odd photo, and the books seem to be merely props (in more than one sense). You and Roger seem to appreciate your book bundle far more.

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  14. I love sepia saturday Alan, always enjoy maybe cause remember me family pictures that Mom show me, nice post I(m a loved of books Alan!!

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  15. Books were scarce in my childhood home as well. Luckily a lady started a one-room library in the basement of the courthouse when I was 12 and the world changed for me.

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  16. We are a spoiled generatin, aren't we? Most of us own hundreds of books, not to mention having access to libraries and now everything online, on Kindel..it's incredible really when you think about it.

    I was amused that the sons kept still better than their father in the photo.

    And cute you and brother, too!

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  17. Beautiful photo. Three distinguished looking gentlemen. I am like Wayfarin the library was my world as a young girl.
    QMM

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  18. Another wonderful essay, Alan. My house groans from the weight of books and magazines. While my father had very little reading material at home, and my grandfather probably never even owned a book. It is a new age unlike any era before.

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  19. I couldn't stop thinking of the "father" being propped up by the prop book.

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  20. I wonder what the gentleman who chose to be photographed in profile would think if he knew that years later some stranger (me) would see this and think that he must have had a horrible scar on the right side of his face. Either that or attention deficit disorder.

    It tickles me that you Photoshopped one of your pictures. So did I.

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  21. It doesn't look like "Father" is old enough to be the father, perhaps it was three brothers? and I liked Velvet's comment that he must have had a scar on the right side of his face. Or maybe he was looking at a pretty young lady having her photo taken at the left?

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  22. So young and so very dashing and already a great reader...! That's just the most adorable coat and hat too!

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  23. I wonder if the man is a teacher there must be a reason he is side on, the book symbolising literacy. Love that sailor's cap, so cute.

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  24. The father and sons are posed rather strangely, aren't they? I wonder why the father isn't looking at his sons. You'd almost think they were stuffed! :)

    I seem to remember that book about Fate too.

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  25. I think the older boy has his mouth open because he is shocked you photoshoped those books in the picture.

    We had lots of books in the house and my father's parents had lots of books. My mother's parents had some but not so many. I also found quite a few photos of people reading but only used two.

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  26. ...the wonders of Photoshop! But you didn't need anything to make that little boy any cuter! Is that you? I know I have a boatload more books than my parents ever owned... And I grew up on READING Disney and the classics. I saw two movies at the theatre when I was a small child...Bambie and Mary Poppins.

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  27. Two splendid photographs.
    And you are right:
    we write our own history.
    I wonder though,
    in a century from now,
    what the notion of vintage will be.
    Will future generations simply press delete, or is nostalgia a necessity for mankind?
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  28. The posing in the first photo is rather curious - and the second one is brilliant :-) My Mum was a big reader and so was I as a child. She enrolled me in a Children's Book Club (Foyle's, I think, per pub quiz) and I had a new book every month. I still read a lot these days.

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