Friday, December 28, 2012

Cowper's Poems

Among the old books inherited from Pine Knoll are two small volumes of poems by British poet William Cowper. This two-volume set was printed in 1803. That's almost 210 years old!

Curious to learn more about this publication and its author, I did some online searching last night. I discovered that the New York Public Library's copy of this same edition has been digitized and is freely available via Google Books. (Click on the image here to access it.)

I also learned that many editions of Cowper's poems have recently been offered for sale via the eBay auction site, and very few have sold, even though the asking prices were low ($28, $35, $9.99, etc.) and the bindings looked in MUCH better condition than my worn set. Mine might be worth $10 or less, given its poor condition with many brown stains (e.g., "foxing") on the pages. I now feel free to handle the books, read the poems, and show them to others, such as the writers in our weekly Fun with Writing group.

The fun and value, for me, in these volumes are the clues about family ancestors. I found "Joshua H. Ward, Cambridge, MA 1820?" handwritten on a front page and "No. 7 Walnut St, 1820?" on a second blank page. In very tiny penmanship "Harvard University" was written inside the front cover of volume 1. In volume 2 "Joshua Ward" is penned over a previous name that had been partially erased. Re-examining volume 1, I also see evidence of an erased address, and the name "Anna."  I'll leave these puzzles for another day.

See Wikipedia's article on William Cooper for background about the author's life and influence.  He lived from 1731 to 1800. His book "Poems" was first published in 1782.

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