Restoring Family Heirlooms From A Florida Basement

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There is something in my home I count as the most precious possession I own. I pick it up daily and cherish it. I love the way it feels when I take the time to appreciate it for what it is. What is this treasure? It’s my Bible.

I got this particular copy in 2003 and the pages began showing their wear and falling out a couple of years ago, especially the book of Psalms–I could completely remove it from the rest of book. It was time to do something, but I knew I didn’t want to buy a new one. This one has markings in it indicating the revelations God has given me while reading. I have favorite verses underlined. I have comments next to convicting passages.

Imagine how thrilled I was when Tom told me he found an English hand book binder in Daytona Beach who uses the old method in re-binding broken books. As a blessing to me–we drove there last month to have it rebound and recovered.

The book binder’s name is Paul Sawyer. He works in the basement of his old Florida home surrounded by lush landscapes of palms and bouiganvillea flowers. As we descended the steps to his quaint workspace, I felt as if we were entering a hobbit’s hole. When the door opened we were met with his bright smile and the musty smell of recorded history. It was an inviting, albeit crowded space where this gentle man spends much of his waking hours. He was delighted to share with us his workmanship from his recent purchase of a set of old atlases to a handwritten letter from Charles Dickens, it was obvious he loves what he does.

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An interesting discovery as we talked was that he came to America being commissioned to work with the Library of Congress. You can read more about his work and training here.

I also took my great-grandfather’s family Bible from the mid 1800’s and had it cleaned and recovered as well. We found it while going through my Mom’s boxes of books after she passed away. It was on the bottom of a box that had gotten wet in the garage. I was so sad to see the state it was in having endured a house fire at my grandparent’s home in the 60’s and now this damage from water.

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

Mr. Paul Sawyer, bookbinder

What makes this Bible even more precious is that it contains my great-grandfather’s handwriting recording marriages and births of his parents and their children. What a treasure it is for me to have my current Bible sitting next to this family heirloom on my coffee table. Hopefully the generations to come will realize how important it is to read the Bible and to record family history as it happens.

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What old books do you own that are precious to you? Were they passed down in your family, or were they discovered on the dusty shelf of an antique book store? 

You might want to add a note inside in your own handwriting that tells the story of why it is precious to you. There may be a day when someone you love is wanting to know the answer to that question, and you’re no longer around to answer them.

The Value Of Handwritten Notes

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Do you have an old family Bible?

I do. I found it when we were cleaning out my Mom’s house a year ago. It’s a rich treasure holding keys to my family’s history. Most of the facts I already knew, but to see birth dates and death dates penned by my Great-Grandfather’s hand is quite the experience. It’s a treasure! To think that a man I never met was holding the same Bible at one time recording information in it for a generation yet to come (me!) is awe-inspiring. It matters, and I am grateful.

I love handwritten notes. When my husband, children and now grandchildren take the time to write out their heartfelt sentiments to me on paper I have a hard time ever parting with them; My closet is proof of it. I have a small handwritten note from my grandmother that she gave to me at my bridal shower 35 years ago. When I received it, it was expected. But when she passed away only four months later in June of 1979, it suddenly became priceless to me.

I’ve heard there is a huge debate taking place about the need for teaching our children how to write in cursive. Really? They say there is no need for it anymore, since everyone communicates through a keyboard or Smart phone. How sad. If cursive goes by the wayside, it will be a permanent disconnect from our past. So many important documents are written in cursive, like the Declaration of Independence and our own Constitution, to name a few. If children can no longer read it, maybe they will no longer care. It will become as indecipherable to them as a foreign language.

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Four Reasons Handwriting is Better Than Keyboards:

1. When someone takes the time to write their thoughts on paper you know they’ve purposed to slow down and think about what they want to say. It’s not the same as receiving a quick text or e-mail. I can type so much faster than I can write, so I don’t have to think as hard when I’m using a keyboard. Case in point–think of the many texts and e-mails you wish you could rescind. But a handwritten note is usually read through before it is sent on it’s way. And when it is received it is appreciated all the more.

2. One’s handwriting was also proof that it was they who said what was written. In the Bible, the Apostles often ended their letters by saying it is with my own hand that I write this to you. It was a validation. Computers are much  more impersonal. They validate nothing because anyone could have typed an e-mail.

3. It is believed that creativity is inspired when one writes in cursive. It provides an expressive outlet for what we want to say. It’s not just about the words chosen, but also about how the words are written. I remember when I was in sixth grade practicing how to spell my name over and over again. I wanted to have pretty handwriting, so I worked hard on how I wanted each letter to look. I paid attention to how others wrote their letters, and if I liked it, I practice until I could do it as well. Some of my letters I still write the same today–and I’m turning 55 this year.

4. Finally, handwriting is proof that we existed. Years from now when people see something we’ve written, they’ll pause to see what it is we took the time to write–like when I found my family Bible. Think of how special each signature is on the Declaration of Independence. You knew that each man was in the room when it was signed. It was a part of the story, seeing their “John Hancock” written so beautifully. It’s not only a rich document in content, but it’s rich in artistic beauty.

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I pray we won’t allow our children/grandchildren to lose the gift of handwriting. The only way they will appreciate it is if it is seen as valuable to us. Do you believe there is value in writing in cursive? Or have you stopped altogether and communicate only by way of keyboard? My 57 journals written by my own hand since 1989 are proof of my answer to this question. I pray each volume will matter to those who are growing up behind me, my three children and my seven grandchildren. It is my hope that they will read what mattered to me while I was living, and that in doing so it will have an effect on how they live.

(Photo Sources: Bible, letters, child writing)