Monday, April 30, 2012

Book hunting in April

Last week I arrived at the shop to find a small package from England. Too skinny to be a book I'd ordered; what could it be? Inside was a lovely catalog and bookmark from Persephone Books. (Can you smell the fresh paper?) Here's the post I wrote about visiting their shop in London last year.

I went to the annual book sale at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Greensboro last Thursday. I always love their old and rare book room! This year, however, the prices were higher than usual. I heard fellow booksellers grumble, "Retail!" and I silently agreed. The volunteer cheerfully told everyone that a professional had priced all the books for them this year. She didn't realize that booksellers can't buy at retail prices because we have to make a profit.

I paid too much for a signed Inglis Fletcher, but it still had the dustjacket and I couldn't resist the vintage North Carolina historical. I had to skip some local histories, hoping a few might still be there on bag sale day. My surprise find turned out to be a modern Irish language book, Greenspeak. I picked it up just because I like Irish books. It turned out to be a fairly uncommon reference listing at textbook prices.

My hopes were rewarded with great deals on Saturday! I bagged some N.C. county histories and signed moderns. I picked up this little 1895 printing of Two Years Before the Mast because of the pretty binding.

Last week I also shipped my first international sale. I've purchased from overseas, but this was the first time I shipped a book out — to Australia! I had to fill out an online customs form and hand-deliver it to the post office (or my carrier, who had already left).

Do you like vintage books? Come by and visit — if you can't make it in person, browse the books by category here or stop in for a chat on Tannery Books' Facebook page.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Clothing in Colonial America: A Trip to the Past - Part 7

Revolutionary War re-enactors put on a history-of-fashion show — British and American fashion — during my visit to Camden, S.C. (Here are part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6).

I had always heard the British referred to as "Redcoats," but their forces were a colorful lot. Here's an officer in a blue coat with red trim.

The Hessians, Germans hired by the British to come fight in America, wore wigs with a long ponytail down the back. Hessian sharpshooters wore green coats, like this man on the right. Notice his high gaiters (waterproof canvas that looks like boots). The knot on his sword indicates rank.

His German wife, dressed in green riding habit, emceed the fashion show. She said the dangly balls on her hat were designed to keep flies away.

Next to her is an Anglican priest. He has to wear a wide-brimmed hat because the colony has so much more sunshine than back in England.

We forget that Americans fought on both sides during the Revolutionary War. Militia wore whatever clothes they brought from home, which could lead to confusion during battle. So they used symbols to show which army they were with. In 1780, Marion's men wore something white (a feather or paper) in their hats, while the tories wore small pine branches in theirs.

The taller man is showing the waistcoat that he wears under his hunting coat.

This dandy is getting arrested for a wild night out on the town (maybe he should get arrested for those fancy stockings!). He's at the height of fashion with a corduroy coat, silk waistcoat, shoes with buckles and a walking stick.

This British grenadier proudly wears marine and navy emblems. His sword is an investment, bought by his family for 20 shillings.

Next week: Women's clothing in colonial America.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Genealogy in a family Bible

A little fun at my archives job — I got to copy family tree information that was written in an old Bible. The Bible, published in 1791, belongs to one of our docents and has been in her family for generations. They have taken good care of it! The earliest births and deaths were written on the blank pages in the front and the later, 19th-century information was written on ornate family tree pages in the middle.

Wonderful heirlooms like this always have surprises between the pages. Someone wrote a story and stuck it in this Bible. I also found a strip of cloth and a small evergreen branch.

What treasures have you found in old books?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Can a house be historic and new? — Linbrook Hall

Linbrook Hall
Every year, Jerry Neal performs a tribute to Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of the telegraph) at his lovely Linbrook Estate in Randolph County, North Carolina. I'd always thought the show sounded interesting, but had never seen it. When I found out that Neal planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic in this year's rendition, I especially wanted to go.

I love this grand staircase!
I got to tour the main floor of Linbrook Hall before the show. The house, with its 18th-century architecture and furnishings, is only about eight years old. Jerry and Linda Neal wanted to build a home with a classic, timeless feel, near the land where Jerry's ancestors have lived for the past 250 years. (You can see more photos here.) But they don't live in it — the Neals live nearby and use the grand house for charity and private events.

Small signs told about particularly old antiques and family mementos. The large kitchen is modern, with walk-in refrigerators, but the stone counters and antique-style ovens fit right in with the rest of the house. I noticed that every room had at least a few books as part of the decor.

Notice the rolling staircase on the right.
Of course, my favorite room was the library. I just had to walk around the room and peruse the titles. I especially liked the moveable staircase, complete with decorative railing at the top.

Linbrook Hall at night
The event included wine and cheese on the patio outside the breezeway, and the evening air was perfect. 

I shyly sat next to a couple and we introduced ourselves. They turned out to be my mom's long-time neighbors! I had heard their names mentioned for years, but rarely met them because of their travels. We had a lovely time talking about their recent trip to Asia.
Just before dusk, we went inside to see Jerry Neal's presentation of "Marconi Speaks," which I wrote about here.

Interior photos courtesy of Linbrook Heritage Estate.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket to this event through my chamber of commerce membership, with no obligation to write about it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mobile phones, the wireless, and Titanic

We take our mobile phones for granted. I know many people with smartphones now, although I still consider them a luxury item. Even I can text on my dinky cell phone. Best of all, although I hope I don't need it, I can call 911 anytime (and yes, it is 911 for cell phones in my state).

In early 1912, the telegraph was the new gadget, a novelty used by upper-class travelers to chat with their friends back home. The equivalent of today's smartphone with Facebook.

Jerry Neal as Guglielmo Marconi
That changed when the R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg April 14, 1912, and started to sink. The telegraph transformed from social networking device into the most basic emergency system. Titanic's operators transmitted "CQD," the maritime call for help, with the ship's position at 12:15 a.m. April 15.

I learned about the wireless aspect of the famous disaster last weekend during Jerry Neal's performance as Guglielmo Marconi. Neal is the co-founder of RF Micro Devices, Inc. (for cell phones and other applications) and owner of Linbrook Estate, where I saw his performance. Since childhood he's been fascinated with Marconi (1874-1939), who invented telegraph technology and sent the first transatlantic wireless signals in 1901.

As part of the deal between Marconi and White Star Line, he and his family had free passage on Titanic's maiden voyage. But Marconi decided to take earlier transport to America and his wife and children joined him later.

Titanic artifacts at Linbrook Hall
Marconi had two telegraph operators onboard Titanic, John "Jack" Phillips, 24, and Harold Bride, 22. The two men stayed at their post even after being told they could leave. Phillips was lost, but Bride survived the icy Atlantic. Recovering from his rescue with frost-bitten feet, Bride was carried into the wireless room to give Carpathia's exhausted telegraph operator a few hours' rest.

The operators weren't the only ones to stick to their posts in an attempt to save as many passengers as possible. Engineering crew members stayed to keep the lights on as long as possible. Boiler operators, firemen, and the famous band, all kept working.

With 1,523 casualties, Titanic remains the greatest peacetime disaster in maritime history. In honor of that, Neal's grandson Charles Neal composed a song, "Signals," for the occasion. He also played a solemn trumpet solo of "Nearer My God to Thee."

After the performance, Neal answered questions in character about Marconi.

Earlier in the evening I got to tour Linbrook Hall. I'll share more about that in Monday's post.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn lots of details about the Titanic, including the people onboard and recovery operations, I recommend the book Titanic: Destination Disaster, The Legends and the Reality.

Photos courtesy of Linbrook Heritage Estate.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket to this event through my chamber of commerce membership, with no obligation to write about it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Eating 17th-century food

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to eat the way people did in the 17th century? I've dreamt about an immersion course (small beer for breakfast — why not?) to see what life was like for my ancestors and get details for my novel. But after watching this hilarious episode of the BBC's Supersizers, I'm glad Giles and Sue did the immersion for me. I can live vicariously through their experiences while keeping my internal organs in good working order.

Each of the six videos below is about 10 minutes, for a total 1-hour episode about life — and especially food — in Restoration England. Thanks to A Woodrunners Diary for the idea.

My ancestors in Ireland were Quakers, so they would not have set such an extravagant table. There's a clip about Puritan/Quaker/country food towards the end of the third video.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blogging on the brain - part 2

It's after 10 p.m. and I haven't finished today's homework assignment for the April Platform Challenge. (Does it count if I already did it yesterday?) Instead of writing, I've been reading about blogging from various experts around the web. You see, I'm still trying to figure out what topics I should focus more on in Travels with Books, which turned 3 years old yesterday. Should I add separate pages for history, books, and genealogy? Would placing those links at the top of this page distract people from reading new posts?

I like all those things in the "About This Blog" blurb on the right side of this page. Out of curiosity, I skimmed through the blogs I follow (I don't necessarily read everything), and counted up the categories. Several of them were outdated, or sadly, closed shop a few months ago. Those did not get counted. I follow:

17 history blogs
26 genealogy blogs
29 about books, booksellers or libraries
5 about Quakers (modern)
1 travel blog
29 writing blogs
6 scrapbooking or photography
and 6 others, just for fun.

Apparently Genealogy, Books and Writing still grab my interest, about equally. I was surprised to see only one for travel, because I follow several travel bloggers on Twitter.  New posts show up in the Reading List on Blogger's dashboard, but I don't know how to delete duplicates or extinct blogs. 

What about you?
1. What are your favorite themes?
2. How do you read your favorite websites and blogs? (eg. Google reader, Blogger)

Please post your answers in the comments. I'd like to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blogiversary! And a little writer's retreat

Today is my blogiversary! Three years and counting.

My first post on Travels with Books was April 11, 2009, about going through some of my mom's things. Within a week, I started talking about this book I wanted to write about my ancestors in Ireland.

I think I started writing the book in November 2008 during National Novel Writing Month — 50,000 mediocre (at best) words in 30 days! I got back to my busy life, but managed to travel back to Ireland for more information in October 2009. I didn't have time to organize the research because another nanowrimo started as soon as I got home. I added about 23,000 more words, trying to fill in some of the missing pieces in my 100-year-long, multi-generational saga.

The following year (2010), thanks to my new writer buddies, I kept at it. I ended up with this monster draft in a three-ring binder, some of it in longhand. (By the way, I took a break and worked on other stories during nanowrimo 2010 and 2011.)

I'm still progressing at excrutiatingly slow speed. Earlier this year, I decided that my monster child might actually be triplets — I mean, a trilogy. I re-outlined the first book and put headers and notes into Scrivener. I'm now typing my draft into Scrivener, revising as I go.

Last weekend, I had my first free Saturday in aeons and decided to give myself a little writing retreat. Nothing organized, just a Saturday at home with priority on writing.

I put the nice lace pillows on the bed and laid out the guest towels, just for me! I slept in, but not too late. Cooked breakfast. Spent more than an hour trying to add those little "share" icons you see at the bottom of this post, as part of the April Platform Challenge (I've enjoyed the daily tasks, but that one caused some problems).

I finally started on my story after 10 a.m. Stopped to check a child character's birth date on my old desktop computer. Pulled up photos of the actual Irish manor house so I could add a few scene details. Then I went on a book and internet search to find the 17th-century word for "diaper." (Another historical writer uses "clout," but I couldn't find any sources for that, and "nappy" came later.) Considered focusing my blog on 17th-century Irish social history because there's such a dearth of information. Ordered a book online from interlibrary loan.

During lunch, I read my May/June Writer's Digest that had just arrived in the mail. Lisa See talked about organizing historical research. Wish I'd read her ideas a couple of years ago!

Back to the book. By the time I quit to make an afternoon grocery run, I'd written about 771 words. Pitiful, I know, especially for a day dedicated to writing. So let me add some accomplishments:
- Transition to the next scene.
- Added Sarah, the third child in the scene, for historical accuracy. Corrected George from a baby to a toddler.
- Added details, including relative directions for the stairs and hall, type of floorboards, and the toddler's trundle bed.

The next time I get a day off, I may use some tips in this article about a Mini-Writing Retreat. Two things will get this book to publication: God's help, and sheer stubbornness.

The challenge is that I'm not just writing, I'm revising. That means stopping to look things up, checking facts, deciding on consistent names for servants and other supporting characters. If anybody has any tips on how to keep flowing while doing all that, please share!

Writing Magazines  <-- May/June issue as pdf file

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Please excuse the mess

The Travels with Books blog is looking a little... different, today. It all started with this morning's April Platform Challenge, just a "simple" task: to add sharing options to my blog.

Well, it wasn't so simple. After hitting my head against the proverbial wall for an hour this morning and then trying again at lunchtime, I learned that my old Blogger template just wasn't compatible with these fancy new gadgets. I'd been meaning to update my page, anyway, so I chose this wider, newer format.

It's like moving furniture around your living room — you can't stop with just one thing. I've been shuffling links and widgets around, but they're not quite where I want them, yet. Since I post a lot about history, I want to change the background to one of my photos from Ireland. Blogger says my photo must be at least so big, but every time I try to upload it, Blogger tells me it's too big.  *sigh*

I think I've had enough design fun for today. More tweaking to come.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The 'key' to genealogy...

Last week I wrote about DNA Genealogy Excitement — a way that DNA might help me solve a century-old family mystery — and two big obstacles. First, the tests are very expensive. And second, would Mrs. Myrtle be willing to share her DNA with strangers?

worradmu /
I remembered that I have a savings bond in my safe deposit box that my grandparents gave me when I graduated high school (more than a few years ago!). If I remember correctly, it's large enough to offset the cost of the test. Since my grandfather hunted for his grandfather all of his life, I think that would be an excellent way to use the money they gave me!

I got up my nerve and called Mrs. Myrtle on a Sunday evening. She didn't sound nearly as alert as the last time I talked to her, and I had to tell her who I was all over again. Not good. But when I asked about the DNA, and told her she'd just have to swab her cheek and send the kit back in the mail, she said yes!

All I had to do next was visit the bank and cash in the bond. I went to my hidey place and... no key. I searched all over, and even found the little envelope that the bank gives you to hold it. I hadn't used it in at least a year, so I emptied out an old purse to see if it had been left in there. No luck. I searched in other likely places, and looked underneath my bills. Nada. I found a couple of sturdy-looking keys in a drawer and eagerly showed them to the teller at the bank. She shook her head. "Nope." (Anybody know what these keys go to?)


Sunday, April 01, 2012

April Platform Challenge - Who Am I?

Robert Lee Brewer's April Platform Challenge for writers is up and running! The first challenge (I knew this was coming) is to define myself.

Name (byline): Elizabeth A. Saunders

Position: Bookseller; freelance writer; Assistant Archivist at Friends Historical Collection; blogger; Board Member for North Carolina Yearly Meeting Publications Board.

Skills: Nit-picky proofreader, editor, writer (historical fiction and journalism), genealogist and historian (Quakers, Ireland and the Carolinas), constant learner (eg. self-taught Spanish and blogging).

Social Media Platforms: Blogger, Twitter, Facebook

Archdale Friends Meeting book (really long link)

Accomplishments: First place awards in community journalism from North Carolina Press Association; Heritage Award from Archdale-Trinity Chamber of Commerce; wrote a genealogy book on Archdale Friends Meeting; edited Deep River Friends book (revision) and manuscript of Quaker biographies; National Novel Writing Month local volunteer and three-year winner; completed Writer's Digest course in Nonfiction Writing; B.S. and M.S. in aerospace engineering; former private pilot;  wrote more than a dozen published technical reports for the Department of Defense.

Interests: Genealogy, extended family, reading, faith, and travel.

Who am I? (one sentence):
Elizabeth A. Saunders is a Quaker historian, genealogist, writer and editor who loves to travel, and who owns a used and antiquarian bookshop in a small town in North Carolina.