Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Miniature Books

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
 I'm working on plotting out my Gilded Age novel and doing lots of research.

I've decided to give my main character the hobby of collecting miniature books, which have been around for thousands of years. The earliest one on record is a tiny one inch square clay tablet written in Sumerian script from 2000 BC.

To qualify as a miniature, a book must be no larger than 3 inches wide or tall. I have a few in my own personal collection, acquired after years of antiquing and flea marketing.

Medieval Book of Hours
Some of the miniature books were bound in leather and mother of pearl, with gold lettering and beautiful illustrations. Some had enameled covers and gold clasps, set with gems. They can be slipped into a pocket (which my character will do) and carried about easily.

Popular subjects were Bibles and religious books, children's stories, histories, and famous speeches such as Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation of Emancipation.

Snap these up if you come across them at a flea market or a tag sale. They are precious.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Entering the Gilded Age

The Gold Room at the Marble House

 I've been a busy little bee, working at plotting out not one but two novels.

I'm very excited about #4, set in the Gilded Age of America. This time period was roughly 1870 to 1914.

It was a time of excess the likes of which had never been seen in America. On one side you have the moneyed and revered patrician stock - the Astors, the Stuyvesants, the Van Renssalaers, and the Roosevelts.

The Breakers, New port, RI
And on the other side, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, and the Carnegies, who wanted to enter the highest echelons of society - Mrs. Astor's famous Four Hundred.

TheVanderbilts were nouveau riche. After the Civil War, immense fortunes were made in the railroad industry, coal, mining, manufacturing, etc. The wives of these newly rich magnates were social climbers of the first rank. Mrs. Astor didn't want to receive "those people" into her revered circle of society.

But clever Alva Vanderbilt finally broke into that circle and soon the nouveau riche built ostentatious mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, spent spring in Paris, and moved on to London before coming home to summer in their "cottages" along the Atlantic in Rhode Island right along with the old guard.

The Marble House, Newport, RI
In the fall, they moved back to New York for the "season" and started all over again.

Alva Vanderbilt's summer "cottage," Marble House, is pictured here, as well as the Gold Room in the cottage.

Another stunning mansion is the Breakers, the summer home of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.

I'm researching the Gilded Age and it's fabulous and fascinating.

I think I'm going to have to make a trip to Newport!