Autograph Book, Page 3

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“‘Far richer jewels, and more valued gems
Than ever graced imperial diadems —
The choicest treasures of the human mind,
Within this casket oft a place shall find.

Full many a cherished and familiar name,
More dear to friendship even than to fame,
Around which memory will her garlands twine,
Shall have a place within this sacred shrine.

Here shall the purest thoughts and feelings flow,
Here shall the hearts sincere affections glow;
Here virtue’s precepts shall the store increase,
Here shall true wisdom point to paths of peace;
While lovely friendship, with her influence wide,
Shall oer them all in harmony preside.

And when long, circling years have rolled away,
And friends departed who are here today —
When those whose names this treasured book contains,
Are widely scattered oer earth’s distant plains,
Then shall my mind each former scene unfold,
And with those friends a sweet communion hold!

Then, still each offering shall its powers possess,
The rough and rugged path of life to bless;
Still shall each thought be gentle or sublime,
And live as lasting and as long as time.'”

Minnie. E. Duryee.

by B. J. Howe.

I had a tough time reading the letter p in this note, but after comparing a lot of similar words… I feel a lot more confident about words like precepts and point. The one letter I’m still struggling with is in the final attribution (in the bottom left corner of the page). I think it’s “by B. J. Howe,” but I can’t tell for sure what the second initial is.

The way I’m interpreting this entry, it looks like it was written out by Minnie, but that the poem itself belongs to Howe. In the second to last line, the word “shall” is tucked in between two other words. It makes me wonder whether Minnie was trying to recall the entire poem from memory, and just forgot this word.

I tried searching the web using snippets of the poem, hoping I could verify the spelling of the author’s name. The only other version of the poem I could track down was in a travel journal belonging to Job Green (Illinois, 1848).

Interestingly enough, the version in Green’s journal included an opening couplet:

Here shall young Genius wing his eagle flight,
Rich dewdrops shaking from his plumes of light

Using those opening lines, I was able to turn up another reference: this couplet appears as the tagline for the New-York Mirror. Although, I’m not sure if tagline is the correct term – motto maybe? It appears directly underneath the publication’s name, on the front page… and appears in multiple volumes/editions.

Looking over prior issues, the New-York Mirror seems to have published a decent amount of poetry. In fact, a quick search on Wikipedia shows that the Mirror was the first to publish Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven.

Perhaps somewhere buried in the archives of the Mirror, is the original version of the poem I found in Minnie’s book. If anyone else wants to give their sleuthing skills some exercise, I’d love to see what others might find as to the author or origins of this poem.

I strongly recommend you check out the Saving Memories section of the Nebraska Sate Historical Society. Though clearly created some time ago (Adobe PageMill 3.0 apparently, if you view-source), the Diaries/Journals and Photo Album pages are worth exploring.

I have a love of old photographs, and their ability to let me transport myself to another time, to step into a stranger’s life if only for a moment. In scanning and looking over Minnie’s Autograph Book, it evokes the same sensations – my fingers and my eyes, examining words written over a century ago.

If I could design my own job, I could do worse than to imagine myself a digital archivist – scanning diaries and photographs from eras gone by, being privy to incredibly personal and private moments. What a great job that would be, where you would be given the opportunity to meet so many people from so long ago. On seeing the collection of diaries at NSHS, I wanted nothing more than to go through each volume, page by page.

Give me a room, a Mac and a scanner… and I could easily disappear for hours on end. Scanning and documenting objects from the past? What an absolutely amazing job that would be.

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