I recently visited the summer home of Amy E. Blanchard and Ida Waugh: it's a home that I've been to hundreds of times over the last thirty-five years. On this trip I realized that I've never really looked at their generous bookshelf, tucked away in the corner of the living room. So I wedged myself onto the uncomfortable sofa, cranked my neck to an angle that would make my physical therapist weep, and started browsing the shelves. Who among us bibliophiles has not cruised the shelves of friends, lovers, potential mates, or mere acquaintances, if only to get a glimpse into their soul? I wasn't looking for books they had written, although there were a few, I wanted to know what they read, what they bought, where did they spend their hard-earned money? What kind of books were they gifted by their friends?
My aunt generously offered to let me take some books home. Most of the covers were faded and worn, each book showed the toll that over a hundred years in an un-insulated house on the Atlantic had taken. I chose a few, not wanting to break up the collection. There was crossover between Amy, Ida, and the generations of readers that arrived later.
- AS OTHERS SEE US by Amy E. Blanchard. I've been looking for this book for ages. It's a little book of moral teaching that begins, "Slow people seldom receive half the sympathy that they should."
- NEW SALADS by Mrs. S.T. Rorer. Amy loved to cook, and did so often. There are tiny "x"s on recipes I have to assume she made such as "A Sunday Night Salad."
- SEX IN EDUCATION, OR, A FAIR CHANCE FOR GIRLS by Edward H. Clarke, published in 1873. I haven't given this a read yet, and it is so fragile that I am nervous about opening it too often. Amy had a high school education and Ida was a member of the first life drawing class at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, so I would say that they both had strong feelings about women's rights when it came to education. After a little searching I see that this book merited a few responses, including a collection of essays written by women and titled NO SEX IN EDUCATION, OR, AN EQUAL CHANCE FOR BOTH BOYS AND GIRLS.
- THE HOSTESS OF TODAY by Linda Hull Larned. It seems as though Amy and Ida were at their most social on their beloved Bailey Island in Maine. From Amy's journals I get the sense that Amy was the cook, the entertainer, the outgoing one while Ida quietly, yet happily, went along with the group. Published in 1899, the illustrations by Mary Cowles Clarke are wonderful. Starred recipes include Split Pea Puree and Fruit Macedoine.
- ITALIAN VIGNETTES by Mary W. Arms belonged to Ida. Ida and Amy traveled through Italy in 1909 and Ida father, Samuel B. Waugh, was well known for his mid-nineteenth-century paintings of the Italian countryside.
I'm not sure yet what to do with this little stack, but I love the thought of reading a book that Amy might have read, making a recipe that they may have enjoyed one summer night, or leafing through an Italian vignette as Ida may have done. (It was her first, and last, trip to Italy.)