Here at the Curatorial Services my desk is located in the library. The library is a small room and holds, surprise surprise, a collection of reference books.
The other day I had a little tidy of some of the shelves and a look though some of the books. The range of the books is from local Stockport history to the geological composition of the earth and natural history, from manuals on industries such as textiles, farming and home keeping to toy, classic car and art collection, and, obviously, books concerning every aspect of Museums and heritage sites.
There are also a few fiction books in the library, and one in particular caught my eye; Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm, by Enid Blyton. The story is of three siblings; Melisande, Cyril and Roderick
who are forced to go and stay with their cousins; Jane, Jack and Susan on their farm. Neither trio is pleased with this as the town cousins are “awful snobs” and the farm cousins “country clods”.
“Plenty of humour and fun… Six cousins on a farm – ponies and horses – poachers – a strange hermit – Crackers the spaniel – home life, school life, farm life – and a curious little mystery – what a fine mixture for a real Enid Blyton story.”
But it wasn’t the promise of a ‘curious little mystery’ that drew me in, even though that is usually what draws me in to most things in life, no, it was that I also own this book. So? Well, I own this book and there are some curious little similarities.
The copy in the library is the 1949 hardback edition, my copy the 1988 paperback copy.
I received my copy as a gift when I was 10 years old for regular attendance to Sunday School. There is a sticker on the first page stating this. The sticker is large, blue and red in colour and very decorative. The library copy also has this sticker!!
This is what attracted me to this book. The sticker in the library copy is exactly the same colours and pattern. There is a stamp on the library copy indicating it is from Hempsaw Lane Sunday school, not the Sunday school I attended, unfortunately. The book was presented to a Catherine Booth and is dated 01/01/1950.
1950 is 37 years before I was born, and 47 years before I received my copy.
If Catherine also received her copy at the age of 10, that would make her 73 now, I am 25.
That age gap is now bridged, via Enid Blyton.
This is why collections are important, this wont just happen for me, with this object, it can happen to anyone via anything. People cherish memories and these connections and being able to relate your life to a collections item is invaluable. Being able to learn new things is just as important and being able to share what you know and what you have experienced.
I am also quite intrigued by the images in these books. Of course, the story stays unaltered, but the illustrations… The cover illustrations are obviously of very different styles, but inside they are the same apart from some small differences. For example, in the below image there is a drawing of the children. On first viewing they look the same, the children, the hay, the farmers working in the background, even Crackers the spaniel is stood in exactly the same way. But in Catherine’s copy the children are wearing different clothes to the children in my copy, and their hair is styled differently. Perhaps this can be viewed as modernising the book so children could identify with the cousins, however, children still wear shorts to this very day, and if anything Melisande’s hair has got more retro. (Although, it is the 80’s now.)
It really is a curious little mystery.
Like Mistletoe Farm brought the six cousins together, giving them a connection, it has done the same for Catherine Booth and I.
“Good old Mistletoe Farm!” said Cyril, and the cousins echoed his words in their hearts.
Good old Mistletoe Farm!”