Thursday, March 29, 2007

Puns and Polar Bears

Lately we've been going through the many boxes of books purchased throughout our tenure in the old open shop and categorized as "to be dealt with later". After ten years, we're not exactly sure where the majority of these books come from. On a busy Saturday of book trading and selling we might have someone drive up with a pick up truck load of books to offer and they go down in the basement so as not to clog up the aisles. Alternately, we might have bought a large private collection or hauled away a gargantuan load from a fantastic library, church, estate or garage sale and they get tucked away.

My New Year's Resolution was to mine through the stepped pyramid of book boxes in the cellar and the following treasure of unknown provenance comes from this biblio fritto misto. It was part of a particularly dusty batch of children's books and unreadable older novels. Three soft rags later, I knew that it was a great book because it had pictures and rhymes by Edward Lear and many other charming poems and illustrations by other clever types. I was flipping through it carefully, because children's books tend to have a lot of wear and tear and I wanted to be sure all pages were present and unblemished.

Everything looked alright and I got out my pencil to write in the price on the front free endpaper when I my eyes roved over to the polar bear bookplate on the front pastedown. Polar bears are unusual subjects for bookplates and teddies are the usual bears of choice for children's books. Then I noticed the owner's name: Marie Peary Stafford. Hmmm. Peary, polar. The image of my high school social studies teacher floated above my head knocking me with a blackboard pointer. It finally clicked. Robert Peary is credited with discovering the North Pole! Maybe Marie Peary Stafford is related to him. A little book and Internet research later and the mystery unfolded...

This book is available for sale in the shop and online at our bookstore website. Here are the particulars:

Such Nonsense: An Anthology, edited by Carolyn Wells, NY:
NY George H. Doran Company, 1918, first edition. Decorative grey cloth binding. 249 pages, index of titles, index of authors. Many whimsical illustrations accompanying this compendium of humorous verse, drawings, stories and other tidbits, intended for younger readers. Boards splayed, soiled and rubbed, several pages lightly soiled. Polar bear bookplate of Marie Peary Stafford on front pastedown endpaper. Gift inscription to Stafford on front free endpaper from her Uncle and Aunt Bobby.

Marie Peary Stafford (1893-1978) was the Arctic-born baby of Rear Admiral Robert Peary, nicknamed the "Snow Baby" by the Greenlanders of her birthland. Robert Peary is the persistent discoverer of the North Pole in 1909, ably assisted by African-American explorer Matthew Henson and many Inuit guides. The Snow Baby grew up to champion the plight of Denmark and Greenland during World War II, when German blockades threatened food and other supplies to these icebound areas. She also helped lead an expedition to the Arctic to erect a monument memorializing her father's North Pole discovery. $125.00

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