Bessie's book

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is it about the world of old books that are so interesting?
Is it the multi-sensory experience of holding it in your hands, flipping through their pages or that worn smell of the print? Or maybe in this digital age, an old book makes you feel a little more grounded because of all that's going on around you?

I have yet to read an e-book. I'm sure I will at some point. I have yet to squeeze in much reading time at all over the past couple of years but I can't help picking up an old book or two when they present themselves. I use them to create height on tables, stack them as a way to display or just read them. We are on the hunt for bookshelves to line a wall in one of our rooms because this ever-growing collection needs to be enjoyed.

Last fall I was at the Public Library and came across their basement book sale. All books were 10 cents a pound. I picked up a couple of children's books and then went to the vintage ones. Some of the criteria I look for are intact spines, colorful covers, dates prior to WWII, nice or interesting typography and topics of interest.

While there, I found this book, The Cocker Spaniel, by Ella B. Moffit. The green color caught my eye so I thumbed through it.

On the front page was written:
Bessie D. Apgar
Westminster Dog Show
Madison Square Garden
Feb. 10,11,12. 1937

After I lugged home 20 pounds of books (I was on foot) I forgot about them so they stayed in a bag for a week. When I was finally able to look at them, I opened up the dog book first and out fell two calling cards of Bessie's. Besides the fading color, they were in perfect condition. I studied them and turned them over to see if there was any writing on back.

 I wondered if she had gone to the dog show with this book and put her cards in there to give away or if she bought the book there since she was obviously interested in Cocker Spaniels. I wondered if one of her dogs was in the show and the book was a gift from the handler. Suddenly I had all these questions about Bessie so I did a little research.

I found that she was Dr. Apgar, the Assistant Professor of Biology at Elizabethtown College in the 1950's. Her husband, the other Dr. Apgar, was the Professor of Biology. A 1950 yearbook was dedicated to them and the college now bestows a distinguished alumni award in their honor every year.
I know I'll eventually enter the world of e-books but this book adventure tells me I can happily live in both.

Have a good day!

"To Dr. Charles Apgar and to Dr. Bessie Apgar, who have led us through the mysteries of the cell to an appreciation of God's pattern for all living things, we gratefully offer in dedication this 1950 Etonian."


  1. I love this. Sometimes I like to pick up items at antique stores just because the person they belonged to left their mark on it. You are right; with e-books you don't even really "own" it.

  2. Interesting story! I don't know anything about these two, but if you don't mind, I am going to share this with my biology colleagues and see if they have any other details to add to the mystery.


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