A Wonderful Sort of Serendipity Part 2

We were lucky enough that the snow had stopped the morning we drove to Lindsay to discover the part of my grandmother’s book collection that had been donated. The Lindsay Public library is a Carnegie library, well-proportioned in pink and white brick, and once inside we made our way downstairs to the book sale room to meet the sleuths (primarily the wonderfully kind Aleta) who’d wanted to find the family of their mysterious book donor.

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The lovely volunteers at the Friends of the Lindsay Library had my grandmother’s books laid out on a table in their sorting room (with more ready to be unpacked from a cart), and simply told me to pull out anything that was meaningful to me. They even provided with me boxes to pack things up in. These were books that had already been donated to them – some of which might be valuable – and yet they gave me and my family free rein. I can’t thank them enough for this generosity.

Most of the books that had been donated were from her collection of British history and travel. Maddy loved everything English, especially great houses and royal families. The collection included things from Tudor biographies to commemorative programs of the 1939 visit to Ottawa, from turn of the (2oth) century memoirs of London to travel guides to Wales. There was even a folio of rather lovely lithographs.

Some of them dated back as far as the 19th century, and likely came from the basement of Britnell’s bookshop, where boxes from estate sales (or from when the original Britnells came over from England), had a way of gathering dust for years before the staff went through them. Maddy told me about several occasions when she got told she could simply take things home.

I’ll be entirely honest – if I had known this donation before it had happened, I might have chosen to donate another part of her collection, since the British books are among my favourites. But that is spilt milk territory, and so Pam and my mother and I looked through and picked out both the ones that we know meant the most to Maddy and the ones of most interest to us. With the help of the volunteer appraiser, we packed them up and they will soon be part of the family bookshelves once again. I hope we left enough with the Friends that everyone feels happy with the part of Maddy’s library that is with them now.

We also brought two albums full of pictures of Maddy, from her days as a young model to her retirement from Britnell’s, so that we could try to give the library folk a sense of who she was. You can draw a portrait of someone from the books they treasured, but it was fun to provide them with the details of the rest of her life, in which books and bookselling played so central a role.

I feel like I could write about this forever, but for now I’ll stop. Perhaps at some point I’ll do a post of some of the books that have now come home to my bookcases, and why they mean so much to me.

 

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