My late parents had thousands of books. I’m not exaggerating. There are overstuffed bookcases in every room (except the bathrooms) of their large apartment, and no one was allowed to leave my mother’s memorial gathering without taking at least one book home.
Between my father’s passions for Art, American political history, baseball, the American Songbook, and 20th century literature, and my mother’s deep interest in social work & psychology, her love of the theater, and her lifelong fascination with mystery fiction, the bookshelves were swollen and double-stacked. Add a smattering of cookbooks, biographies, memoirs and miscellaneous fiction and non-fiction virtually every kind of books is represented by the dozens. There was something for everyone to take home—paperback cozy mysteries, spy novels, Charles Dickens, Willa Cather, rows of hardcovers by P.D. James, Anne Perry, and Ruth Rendell—the list goes on and on.
Before we put the “please take a book” signs up, I picked out a stack of art books, the autographed Truman biography, a couple of mysteries of sentimental value, and the autographed copy of P.D. James’ ‘The Children of Men.’ And then I asked one of my friends to look for a couple of books I wanted to take home, but couldn’t find. While she was looking for the old Sherlock Holmes story collection (it never turned up so I’m guessing it disappeared years ago) she found a 1909 edition of ‘The Prince and the Pauper.’ On one of the first pages, in a neat and elegant handwriting is the following message:
This is the authorized uniform edition of my books. Mark Twain
Is this for real? Do I have Mark Twain’s autograph on one of his classics? That would be cool. Even if it’s some kind of weird joke, it’s pretty cool.