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.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

I usually come up with some photo related to our son, since “Stay At Home Dad” tends to be the subject of the blog, but I couldn’t find anything that fit well this time. So, here are photos from three very different places for this week’s photo challenge.

We love going to the Southwest states of the US; especially New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.   Here’s a shot of a large chunk of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  The circular age rings of the petrified log look almost like colored glass in person.

petrified 16

It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to go there, but we also love Italy!

Renaissance architecture is filled with patterns, wether it is in the exterior columns or the interior mosaics.  Here’s one of my favorite views of Florence, from the second floor of the Uffizi museum.  Note how the pediments over the windows alternate from triangular to half circles.  In the middle distance is the Pallazzo Vecchio, with its pattern of regular crenellations and support arches on the tower.  And in the distance is the Duomo, with it’s famous dome showing its ingenious exterior ribs.

Maybe we’ll be able to go back in a few years once Mr. C is a little older!


How else to follow up the beauty of Florence but with the beauty of my own humble house!    When I first looked at buying the house I dreaded the prospect of refinishing the kitchen floor.  Some previous owner had the bright idea that it would be nice to paint the floor a very dark green.  It took me a couple of years before I finally got around to getting the floors fixed, and it took a lot of work too,  I was surprised to find beautiful maple wood under all that horrible green paint.   It’s not a Florentine palazzo, but I like it anyway.