I spend nearly as much time reading the books in the collection of the Southold Historical Society as I do cataloging them. Not really the sort of thing a good volunteer should confess. But there are so many odd books on the shelves that I simply can’t help it. Who would have guessed there was an audience for the definitive guide to fairy lamps? Or lace patterns or porcelain from the 17th century or hooked rugs? My favorite title, as of today, is Long Island is My Nation, a book about Arts and Crafts furniture and silver. I have no idea how the author came up with it- but I like the sound of it as much as he clearly did.
The authors of these books fascinate me as well, or rather, their names do. Many went by their married titles. For example, Mrs James Thorne wrote a book about lace while Mrs. Lowes wrote a book about silver patterns. Other favorites are Matoon Curtis (would that be a man or woman?) and Amelia McSwiggen and Ottalie Williams but my absolute, positive favorite of all is E. Lolita Evelith, who wrote a book on Lace Identification. The author photo shows E. Lolita to be a rather substantial middle-aged woman with more than one chin and the faintest suggestion of a mustache. She actually has her eyes closed in a swoon? just like you’d expect a Lolita to – and I can’t help but wonder what she was thinking about. Was it lace? Was she in love with the photographer? Was she praying she’d actually sell a few of her books? I don’t know the answers but somehow, some way, I’m going to find out.