How well do you know your friends? Not very well at all, I concluded, after I came across something in a manuscript collection at the Ohio Historical Society Archives/Library the other day.
“What’s this?,” I whispered, when I found a book that belonged to Josephine inside Box 29, Folder 1 of the John H. Klippart Papers.
The title page told me that Josephine’s book was Mental Photographs: An Album for Confessions of Tastes, Habits & Convictions, edited by Robert Saxton and published by the New York firm of Leypoldt & Holt in 1869.
As if this perfect example of a Reconstruction-era publisher’s bookbinding wasn’t enough, what it contained inside was really clever. Each page consisted of blanks for a name, a date, a photograph, and answers to questions to be filled in by friends and relatives.
On the first page, I admired a circa-1870s carte de visite of an elegant, but unidentified, lady whose hair was arranged in a coronet of braids atop ringlets, wearing a lace jabot and cross-adorned jewelry to accent her dark dress. Surrounding the photograph were questions and answers like these.
Your favorite gem? “The Pearl of Great Price.” Character in romance? “Jo in Little Women.” Character in history? “William the Conqueror.” Book to take up for an hour? “Encyclopedia.” What book (not religious) would you part with last? “Webster’s Unabridged or Pocket.” What is your favorite dream? “Going down in the Yosemite.” What do you most dread? “Dying in the ‘Poor House’.”
As I read the entries in Josephine’s book, I thought about how much she would have enjoyed reading and looking at that in her later years. I’d be so delighted if my busy friends would send me a recent photo and answers to the questions in Mental Photographs!
The questions in Mental Photographs make good conversation-starters too, so I wrote them down. If you’d like a copy of them to share with your friends, leave me a comment and I’ll send them to you.