Sunday, November 19, 2006

Things Found in Books

Booksellers are always finding things in books – usually bookmarks and sales slips. I’ve heard tales of booksellers stumbling across $100 bills in old books but I’ve never been so lucky.

Last Sunday my friend Lou and I went to the mother of all book estate sales and encountered an extravaganza of items stuffed into books. The former owner didn’t own a home, he owned a library. Every room of the 4 bed room tract house was wall to wall to wall bookshelves, ditto the hall and the closets.

They weren’t all old Readers Digest Condensed Books, Book of the Month Club books and ancient textbooks either. The bulk of the collection was like new non-fiction hardbacks of the scholarly persuasion. The man was Renaissance Man with interests ranging from evolution to geology to art to archaeology with an intense specialty in military history.

Not only did he buy books, he noted when he’d acquired each volume and he rated them on style and content. The end papers had such comments as “inadequate maps”, “inaccurate information p. 232” or “style 1 star”. He also collected ephemera about the subject of each book and tucked them into the books. Every piece was carefully clipped and dated. The findings ranged from newspaper clippings to articles to maps. A biography of Wendell Wilkie yielded a Wendell Wilkie postage stamp.

Every clipping but one I found matched the books. The one exception was a wedding announcement, which I found in a 1948 Geology textbook. The clipping details the marriage of
Marjorie Cortelyou to Mr. Charles David Allen. My bookman is named Albert who married Margaret Allen so the lady in question isn’t his wife. However, Albert attended MIT and Marjorie hailed from Princeton so it’s possible they knew each other. In addition, Margeret's maiden name was Allen so perhaps they were sisters or cousins.

Posted by Picasa

A bit of Goggling produced obituaries for Albert, Margret and Marjorie (who went by Martha in her later years).Marjorie is wearing a full wedding dress and veil and judging from her hair style she married in the late 1940s. Unlike most brides she’s not looking directly at the photographer and her face isn’t aglow with happiness. She’s looking to the side and her face is pensive and thoughtful. Who or what was she thinking of and why did Albert keep the clipping till the day he died?

Paper: Houston ChronicleDate: Thu 09/21/2006Section: BPage: Edition: 3 Star
passed away peacefully at his home in Houston on September Saturday September 16, 2006 surrounded by his loving family. Al was born on December 27, 1923 in Portsmouth, Ohio to Albert Elwood Singleton and May Sharp Singleton. Al attended college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston until he joined the army. He served in the Second World War with the 75th division and received disabling wounds. After his honorable discharge from the Armed Services, Al resumed his college studies at Virginia Polytechnical Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he received his Baccalaureate in Mining Engineering and went on to an advanced degree in Geology from Colombia University, New York. There he met, fell in love with and married his beloved Missy, (Margaret Laura Allen) to whom he was wed for over 50 years until her death in 2002. Al spent a productive career with Chevron Oil. The happiest times of his career were spent as a field geologist in the oil camps drilling wells all over Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Houston was next, where he headed the geophysical processing center. His last posting was in London where he negotiated drilling rights on behalf of Chevron in the North Sea. After Al retired he indulged his lifelong love affair with reading. books and knowledge. He is survived by his children, Matthew A. Singleton of Grapevine, TX; David M. Singleton of Galveston, TX; Nicholas D. Singleton of Houston, TX; and Anne E. Singleton of Houston, TX; as well as his daughters-in-law, Jenny Singleton, Mary Jo Singleton, Peggy Sweeney and son-in-law, Jack Douglas. His grandchildren are Amy E. Singleton of Houston, TX; Will Singleton and Katie Singleton of Grapevine, TX; Trent Singleton and Thomas Singleton of Galveston, TX; Gwen Singleton and Timothy Singleton of Houston, TX; and Jackson Douglas of Houston, TX, and dog, Chespah. We will remember and miss him for his intellect, sharp wit and insight and love. He will live forever in our hearts. Al requested that he be cremated with no formal service but that a "Celebration of Life" be hosted in his honor. Details to follow. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that a donation be made to your favorite charity or foundation.

Paper: Houston ChronicleDate: Thursday 02/07/2002Section: APage: Edition: 3
Our beautiful, beloved wife, mother, sister, friend departed peacefully on February 4, 2002. Born March 2, 1928 in Huntington, West Virginia, she is survived by: husband of 50 years Albert E.; three sons Matthew, David and Nicholas; daughter Anne; eight grandchildren and brother Thomas. She attended Connecticut College and graduated from College of Wooster with a BA in Education and later received her Masters Degree in Education from Banks Street School. She was a world traveler, bird-watcher and consummate lover of life! Our hearts are breaking that she is gone yet joyful that we have known her. A celebration of her life will be announced at a later date. The family suggests in lieu of flowers a memorial to her favorite volunteer activity, The Houston Audubon Society.440 Wilchester Blvd., Houston, Texas 77079-7199.

Martha C. Allen
Martha Cortelyou ("Marnie") Allen,
81, of Charlottesville, Va., formerly of Princeton, died April 9 at home after a lengthy illness.
The daughter of Rose P. and Raymond V. Cortelyou, she was born in Princeton.
She attended Princeton High School and earned a bachelor of arts in English from Oberlin College.
She lived for much of her life in Princeton and Rocky Hill before moving to Puerto Rico in 1977. While in Rocky Hill, she directed a pre-school program and was active in community affairs, helping to found a Meals-On-Wheels program in Princeton. She was instrumental in founding the Rocky Hill Library.
During the 1980s, she served as director of library outreach programs throughout New Jersey for the New Jersey Committee for the Humanities, a state-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
She was predeceased by her first husband, Charles David Allen, in 1979. In 1993 she married Joseph Blotner, biographer of William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. She moved to Charlottesville in 1995 following Prof. Blotner's retirement from the English Department at the University of Michigan.
She is survived by three sons, Peter Jackson, Christopher Talbot, and Stephen Noyes Allen; a sister, Priscilla Cortelyou Little of Washington, D.C.; a brother, the Rev. James Upton Cortelyou of Lake Luzerne, N.Y.; two step-daughters, Tracy Willoughby of Ann Arbor, Mich. and Pamela Blotner of Berkeley, Calif.; and six grandchildren.
A celebration of her life for her friends and family will be held at Stonebridge at Montgomery at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Princeton Hospice.

Posted by Picasa
Marjorie (Martha) later in her life


Anonymous said...

I've only had that happen once, with a late Gene Stratton Porter title. Inserted in the book was the newspaper clipping of her obituary.


Amy Singleton said...

I wanted to let you know that my family found your blog post about my grandfather. We read a bit of it aloud at his memorial this past weekend and I believe that everyone was quite touched to hear that others may have seen a glimpse of the man that he was. He was the most intelligent man I knew and to the day he died, his memory was perfect. Margaret, was my grandmother and Martha "Marnie" was married to my Grandmother's brother. Marnie and my Grandmother were the closest of friends. Al considered her a very close friend and they kept in close contact up until she passed away.

I really do appreciate reading your words and thank you for them.

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

I thought your whole experience buying the book, finding the clipping, and the research was intriguing, but then I saw Ms. Singleton's comment. WOW!

Truly amazing things happen in the blogosphere, don't they?

GuusjeM said...

Your comment has me utterly speachless. If you read this, would you please e-mail me? I still have the clipping and I would love to return it to you. Your father was indeed an amazing man. I come from a long line of book lovers and book horders and his collecton was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I did indeed feel like I "knew" him by the time the afternoon was over.

Amy Singleton said...


I would love to email you, but regretably cannot seem to find your email address. I will however leave you with mine.

msingleton3 said...

Dear All,

Marjorie Cortylu (married to Charles David Allen) was Albert E. Singleton's sister-in-law by way of his wife (Margret Laura Allen Singleton; Uncle Charlie being Laura's older brother). Maybe Laura put the invitation in the book and there it lived until your discovery.

Al and Laura were my mother and father in law. They were both to be important parts of my life and my children's... Amy being my oldest. Laura was the best mother-in-law and grandmother a woman could ever hope for herself and her children. And Al was certainly a man of a different cloth. His intellegence and knowledge was far ranging, and my children used him as a resource for many papers. I will always remeber fondly many long and interesting conversations with him, before or after dinners, on quick drop-in visits that turned into hours.

A funny story I just thought of: One morning I was in Houston to attend a press check. The press was delayed, so I went to my father-in-law's to visit until they were ready for me. We talked a while, then each of us read a while, and last of all both of us nodded off in our chairs awhile. Later when we both woke, we laughed a while at ourselves.

He will be missed.

Mary Jo Singleton

Albert Trent Singleton said...

I'm glad you wrote about grandpa in your blog. He was the most intelligent mind I will ever know. I'm Amy's brother, Albert Trent Singleton. Just wanted to post here. I miss him alot.

Peter F said...

amazing. It's really fascinating what people find in books. Have you seen things in books? it's a site just for things found in books!