Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Old Book for a New Year

About ten years ago at an estate sale, I purchased for 50 cents a small hard cover book titled, Daily Food for Christians.  Inside the front cover is a penciled inscription which reads, "Dec. 23, 1908, To Janie From Mollie."  I keep this daily devotional on my night stand and occasionally read the day's entry before bed. I thought I'd start a new project for 2010 and post photos of old books I've collected.  I'm beginning with this book of daily readings.  A little sleuthing reveals that the publishing company --  Henry Altemus Company -- had its start in the 1820s when Henry Altemus' father Joseph began book binding in Philadelphia.  In 1842 Joseph and his brother Samuel founded Altemus & Co.  When Joseph died in 1850 of Typhoid Fever, his 20 year old son Henry took over the business, working with his Uncle.  By the 1860s Altemus & Co. was one of the largest book binders in the United States, with about 150 staff. In 1900 Henry incorporated the company to Henry Altemus Company. Afer his death in 1906, Henry's four sons continued the family business until 1936.  It is exciting to own a bit of history.  I especially wonder about Janie and Mollie. I assume this book was a Christmas gift from one friend to another. Where did the book travel these past 102 years, and what did it mean to its owner(s)?  It is interesting to consider the history of a book.

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