Searching for an Answer

Throughout the course of this semester, I have been studying the book “To Have and to Hold” by Mary Johnston. When I saw it at the flea market, the first thing I noticed was the writing in front cover.

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After seeing this piece of provenance, I knew I had to own it. Provenance comes from the French word provenir, which means “to come from.” Oftentimes, this word is used to describe the ownership of an object (typically historical). Some individuals prefer to use the spelling “provenience,” but there has been an on-going debate over the two spellings. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created a great website differentiating the two terms.

The writing in the front cover was done by way of calligraphy. Calligraphy is a beautiful writing style that has its origins in cave paintings. Over time, it has become more of an art form because it’s continually losing demand. This trend started after the creation of the printing press in the 15th century. Bibles were able to be printed much faster, and calligraphy wasn’t needed. However, it was still utilized for letters, invitations, etc. More information on calligraphy is given below.

Calligraphy Tools


I knew that I wanted to try my best to find the previous owner of this book, so I took to Google. One interesting website is the Consortium of European Research Libraries because it gives you the opportunity to search for provenance, former owners, and incunabula. It wasn’t useful for my research in particular, but was a very good resource to find. When researching the name Erminie, I found that the name isn’t very popular at all. Since 1900, it has never been listed in the top one thousand popular names, which I assumed would make it easier for me to research. I was wrong.

I searched and searched and stumbled upon a lady by the name of Hallie Erminie Rives. Rives was from Hopkinsville, Kentucky in the early 1900’s and was a best-selling popular novelist. Many of her novels were turned into films, and in 1906, she traveled to Japan to marry writer and diplomat Post Wheeler. Could this be the Erminie addressed in the front cover of my book? Did she go by Hallie or Erminie? Before she traveled to Japan, did she leave her copy of To Have and To Hold in Kentucky? I think all of these things are very possible. I purchased this particular novel in Milton, West Virginia, which is less than fifteen minutes from the Kentucky border. The novel could have easily made its way to the area, but I guess I will never know. Until then, I’ll just be searching for an answer.


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