Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2007 Issue

Rose's Books and the Cistercians

Sister

Sister and Rosie Jack at Red River Beach.


After much discussion and back-and-forth, we agreed to sell them on behalf of the monastery. We realized that they would all need bindery work, followed by photography and a clear, specific description, so somehow the books would need to be at our shop, rather than remain with the Cistercians.

One day, I emailed Sister and told her that I thought we would have to rent a very large truck to bring the books to Cape Cod. She responded by telling us that they would rather bring the books themselves, and I immediately understood that not only did they want to check out our shop, but they saw an opportunity to leave the monastery and come to the Cape for the day. She said it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

We decided to drop everything we were doing to help them. We arranged with a chef who lives across the street to put together a vegetarian lunch, and mapped out an itinerary for them. And we made sure that our granddaughter, Rosie Jack, who is 2 1/2, and who was in our care for the summer, was out of pre-school that day. That was a special request from Sister.

On a sunny morning, around 10 AM, three cars rolled into our driveway with the Abbess of the monastery, four other Cistercian nuns (including our main contact), and a lay sister. There was a heavy-duty pickup truck, a station wagon and a sedan, all carrying some two tons of 35-lb. choir books, standing up like little soldiers. Instead of their customary perfect black-and-white starched habits, the sisters wore denim clothes and veils. After off-loading the books and giving them a tour of our shop and living quarters, we went across the street for lunch.

In the yard, before we sat down, I had the privilege of being with the sisters as they prayed.

After lunch we went to Fort Hill, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. This is a glorious location, with almost 360° views of the salt marshes, much as the Native Americans must have seen them. Rosie Jack took off like a shot on the 2-mile trail, a line of nuns following her, in a scene strikingly reminiscent of one of the Madeleine books. Rosie had 6 extra babysitters when we went from there to the National Seashore Museum, downtown Chatham, and finally to Red River Beach at the foot of our street.

Some of the sisters took off their shoes and waded into the water; one climbed up the abandoned lifeguard station. When they spread out along the almost deserted beach, Rosie Jack ran up and down, entirely safe, from one to the other. The day was entirely special and very wonderful. Rosie Jack stills talks about "the nuns" when she lists the names of her friends.

We still had the task of researching the books; in order to properly describe and sell them, we had to understand both their printing history and the history of chant. We enlisted the sisters and other monastics from the Order, both in the United States and in Belgium, in researching the history of the books and we were not disappointed by what we uncovered. The Cistercians fortunately have a long memory and centuries of detailed records.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.

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