Monday, January 10, 2011

When Home is... a book inscription

“To Sybil & Geoff,
With best wishes for future happiness.
From Tom & Claire”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sybil & Geoff as well as Tom & Claire for the last couple of months. It’s a bit odd really as I don’t know either couple at all.

All I do know is that Tom & Claire gave Sybil & Geoff a 1954 edition of the book The American woman’s new encyclopedia of home decorating and somehow it turned up in my sister’s vintage store Retrospections. My sister sells a lot of second hand books, but most don’t have inscriptions inside. If only all second-hand books did have inscriptions though. I doubt I’d ever buy a new book again.

Today, what would be a funny read about being a 1950s housewife is so much more with that inscription inside. Who were Sybil and Geoff? Was this an engagement or wedding present? How did Sybil feel about being given a book about home decorating? And poor Geoff. I can’t imagine that was an exciting present for him back in 1954. Or 2011 either.

Fifty-six years have passed since Tom and Claire bought that book. Did it sit on Sybil and Geoff’s bookshelves for the duration of a long marriage or a very short one? Who made the decision to give it away? Perhaps they are no longer here and all their books were boxed up and given away by one of their children. I wonder if their marriage even produced children.

Did they emigrate to Australia? I’m guessing they were American given the title of the book. I think the Australian women of the 1950s had their own home decorating guides. Or perhaps the book was found at an American market long ago and brought to Australia by another owner...

And as for Tom and Claire, were they close friends of Sybil and Geoff? I do find it interesting that Claire has written Sybil’s name first while signing her own after her husband’s. I’m guessing they were already married and that Tom definitely didn’t go shopping for Sybil and Geoff’s present, let alone write the inscription.

Perhaps they weren't that close - Claire's signoff is a bit cold really. Not 'love' or even 'best wishes'. 'From' is close to 'Yours sincerely'. Perhaps Tom and Geoff were work colleagues and the wives didn't really know each other? Or perhaps Claire was just a tad formal and thought Sybil's house could do with an injection of style.

It’s a mystery and I’ve never even read the book. Unfortunately my sister sold it quite quickly. I’m guessing Sybil & Geoff and Tom & Claire had a lot to do with its appeal. And I hope for their sake it has ended up in a happy home.


Felicity said...

I have always written a message on the endpapers of books that I've given as gifts and encourage the children to do so also.
Two of them gave their Father a book this Christmas and he was truly touched by the careful printing and message of the 8 and 12 yo.

You've got me wondering what sort of thoughts might be conjured by someone opening these in 40 or 50 years time.

Felicity x

Retrospections said...

Indeed it did sell quickly and as a wedding gift no less! How appropriate. I'll be sure to let you know about any other interesting inscriptions as they come in ... JJ


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