Thursday, October 2, 2008

Holy Crazy Family Bible

I was thrilled to find an old family Bible today. The cover is in pretty bad condition and the pages are moldy, but I was expecting to find a treasure of family genealogy - records of births, deaths, and marriages. This is what I found instead ...

... several pages of random scribblings - names of people (Caroline, Thomas Henry, James R. Holliday) and places (Johnstown, California, Lidieingham) and lots of arithmetic problems (1865-1783=82 and 1300+2000+2000=5300+1500=6800). Some words are upside down and there's at least one math problem that seems to have the wrong solution. I have more questions than answers, but I did find some useful information:

  1. Photo 1. It's The Cottage Bible, printed in Hartford in 1841 in two volumes (Genesis-Song of Solomon and Isaiah-Revelation). The notes are by Thomas Williams and references are from the Polyglott Bible.
  2. Photo 2. Alexander Lowry Holliday's name appears on both the front and back endpapaers of Volume I. There's also a mention of his gold watch opposite the title page, above a picture of Jesus. So I'm guessing the Bible belonged to A. L. Holliday, my great-great-great-grandfather, the father of Mary Holliday (who was the wife of H. W. Hartman and mother of H. E. Hartman). Thomas O. Connor's name also appears quite often, but I don't know who he was.
  3. Photo 3. The first page of Volume II features five names: Blanche Holliday, Hannah Holliday, Mary Holliday, Gilbert Holliday, John Holliday. I'm fairly certain that these are the children of A. L. Holliday and his wife Dorcas Hill, the third child being my great-great-grandmother Mary. This explains Aunt Blanche, the aunt who gave H. E. Hartman his Christmas present "Books I Have Read" (see post "The Education of H. E. Hartman").
I also found a tiny Bible printed in London in 1855 "by His Majesty's special command." The name Hannah Holliday is engraved on the front cover, and the inscription reads, "Hannah L. Holliday / Presented by her Mother". I'm not sure why his aunt's Bible is in my great-grandfather H. E. Hartman's book collection. Was she ever married? What about the other Hollidays - did they have families?

One question I'm considering - and one that led to the creation of this blog - is what I should do with these books. The two volumes of The Cottage Bible are in such bad condition that I'll probably have to get them rebound if I decide to sell them or even if I want to keep them in the family. I e-mailed two bookbinding companies in Philadelphia for estimates. Out of curiosity, I googled Cottage Bibles to see if any were for sale online. I found a leather bound 1855 edition on ebay for $550 and a 1835 edition being offered by the Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts Company for $450. I'm not convinced anyone would buy our family's Bible with so many scribbles on its endpapers ... but maybe it's of interest.

*Update, February 2009: Neither bookbinding company got back to me with an estimate, so I still don't know how much it would cost to repair the Cottage Bible. That's another thing I'll have to look into when I get back.

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