September 8, 2011

Names in Books

I love having books that once belonged to someone else, or, even better, were once gifts between people I don't know. It makes me feel like the books connect us, and are some small sign of the communion of saints.

I have copy of the St. Anthony Guild Press edition of Bonaventure's translated Mystical Opuscula that seems to have once belonged to Nicholas Elko, sometime Ruthenian bishop of Pittsburgh, who was one of the council fathers at Vatican II and once wrote a cold war-themed historical novel. It's stamped with his ex libris, complete with an episcopal cross before his name, in a lovely sort of teal.

My set of the Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum seems to have once pertained to a Fr. Louis of the Capuchin community in Mons, Belgium, and my Liber usualis seems to have once been for the use of Fr. Ignatius McCormick, a famous curmudgeon of my own province.

My copy of √Čtienne Gilson's The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure bears a stamp from the "Catholic Library" at MIT. I wonder if such a thing still exists.

I don't even know how I came to have it, but I have a volume of Franciscan sources in Italian which was originally given to a Fr. Pio from a Fr. Bonaventure in Turin in 1978. As far as I can tell with my minimal Italian, the inscription is quite heartfelt and flowery.

I have what I think is a first edition copy of Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain inscribed to someone called Daddy "Ga-Ga" as a gift on Father's Day, June 19, 1949. In a different hand it also seems to be the property of a M.W. O'Connell. Were M.W. and Ga-Ga the same person? Who knows. Having been old enough to have a son old enough to give him a serious book for Father's Day sixty-two years ago, I suspect that Daddy "Ga-Ga" has left this world. May he rest in peace.

I also have a book with a hoax of a dedication. It's one of my history textbooks from college, and one that I've never been able to part with because of the hilarious selection from Alvarus Pelagius's De Planctu Ecclesiae which it features. In the front a couple of my college friends marked it up as an alleged gift from them to me on the occasion of my forty-fifth birthday, February 27th, 2017. That must have seemed like the unimaginable future back in the goofy bemusement of college, ca. 1992. Not so much anymore, I'm afraid.

Of course I also have a number of books inscribed to me: a 1987 edition of Stedman's Pocket Medical Dictionary, a first edition of Fight Club, and a beat-up, paperback copy of the The Idiot in which one of my best friends from high school wrote, "To Charles, may you cultivate blessed idiocy."


Marc said...

Archbishop Elko was Auxiliary in Cincinnati when I became a Catholic there; a great comfort to those of... traditional sensibilities. Requiescat in pace.

Michael Hallman said...

During my prenovitiate I was using a breviary with a name in it that none of the friars seemed to recall. It was interesting because this person would cross out parts of the psalms that were too violent (like the third strophe of Psalm 149 from Sunday Morning I, the part beginning with "to deal out vengeance to the nations..."), and write exclamatory comments, "NO!" and things like that. It really gave the book a lot of character :)