Tuscan Cities

I heard about a book written by a used book seller recently.  It’s a compilation of some of the things he’s found in used books, such as notes, holiday cards, handwritten notes, and photos.  Now that I’m writing this, of course I forget the name of the book, I’ll have to look it up and update this if I find it.  Ms. J and I have something like 3,000 books, most of them old books, so of course I wish I had thought of that first! It at least sounded like a good idea for a post though.  So here’s my  ‘something I found in a used book recently’   post.

We tend to get our books at library book sales or used book stores.  We look for things that might be out of print wether they are by favorite authors, subjects, or just might look interesting.  We’re not really concerned with buying them for their value though, we just want to read them.

I especially like to find old travel memoirs so I was happy to find ‘Tuscan Cities’ by William Dean Howells about a year ago.  It was donated to a library for their annual book sale and I think I bought it for $1, or I might have gotten it on the “Free Day”.   Either way, it was a bargain for a hardcover,  of a book in great condition published in 1894.    It’s not a first edition though, since it was originally published in 1884.   I had not read anything by Howells, though I have heard of his novel ‘The Rise of Silas Lapham”.   There was a long article about that book in The Wall Street Journal just a few days before the book sale, so I  recognized the author’s name immediately.   He published a book just about once a year from 1866 through 1916.  Mostly realist novels, though he wrote a few travel memoirs.  One of the other travel books he wrote is titled “Certain Delightful English Towns”, which to me is both a very funny title and  would seem to fit in with his ‘realist’ style.  He was also appointed to a consulship in Venice by Abraham Lincoln in 1860, so I’m assuming he wrote this book based on his travels in Italy while stationed in Venice.


Almost always in older books like this, there is some kind of personal note written on the title page.  Sometimes it is a birthday or holiday greeting, or a note to a recent college graduate.  This one appears to have been given as a Christmas gift to K. G. J. Webster by someone named Whitfield.   You don’t see handwriting like this anymore.  I wonder how long we’re going to see much hand writing at all.  When I come across something like this I always wonder about the original owner, who they were, where they lived, and how this book ended up as a donation to a library 117 years later.


A folded up piece of paper also fell out of the book.  A map of Assisi, in Italian,  it looks to be about  30 or 40 years old.  So now, I’m guessing that the book was taken to Italy by someone in the 60’s or 70’s.  Where else did this book go ?

Mr. C will probably end up with it some day.


8 thoughts on “Tuscan Cities

  1. Great story about a book! While reading this, I was thinking that we don’t write notes in books we give anymore. And now with ebooks, we really don’t do it. I remember getting books as gifts with very special handwritten notes in them. I wonder why we all stopped.

  2. Hi there,
    That is quite a treasure and for a “steal”. Now one day you &your wife will write your travels in Italy one day in the future.
    Take care and have a great day!

  3. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as old books! I love thinking about the places to which they’ve been carried and the people who did the toting. All of that will be lost to future generations…sad!
    My Italian grandparents emigrated from Cicagna (Genova) in 1921, so Italy has always fascinated me. I’ve never been outside North America, but if I ever scrape enough cash together, Italy and the UK are the two places I’d go.
    Have a happy family 4th, my friend but be careful of those fireworks!!!

    • Thats just one book too. i might post some of the other stuff ive found someday.

      Italy is beautiful. I’ve only been once,and we’d like to go back. My grandparents came from L’Aquila , (near Rome) and Luca, ( near Naples), I wasn’t able to go to either town , but if we ever do go back that’s where I’d like to go.

      You should try to go. I don’t remember how much it cost at all, what I remember is the food, the people, and everything else.

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