For some reason he opened the book, turned its yellowed pages—he supposed because his brother lived out west, and this looked like a western travel book, near a century old. He thought Brother might find it interesting, amusing. He thought he might himself.
But as he turned the dry leaves, something fell out, fluttered to the floor. Something almost tissue-paper thin, and browner than the darkened pages. He stooped and gently plucked it up: an ancient-looking photograph. He had done a lot of varied photo shooting in his lifetime, but never saw a print so thin.
He left it on the table—on the pile of books on the table—and continued his book skimming.
And so he came out to the dining room, where we were, siblings gathered over tidbits of the past, deciding who might want what, and what would go to auction.
“Look!” he said, leafing through, drawing more out—one, another, then another…a pile of antique photographs, all hid away in that old book.
They lay before us, scattered over dining table clutter. We picked them up, handed them around, puzzled over what they were, whose they’d been, where they’d come from…
Somehow, I thought, something seems familiar. Yet none were places I had ever been… Then I started getting breathless.
“That looks like the field of Armageddon!” I said.
And, “That looks like Golgotha!”
I was remembering illustrations from appendices of Bibles.
We grew more earnest in our searching, in our looking, seeing men in fezzes, people—mostly men—garbed Victorian. Desert. Ancient ruins. And a face resembling portraits found up in the attic, in the box of cast-off curtains: our great-granddad—who, family lore said, took “a trip around the world at the century’s turn”—19th to 20th, that is!
And then we found the crackling sheet of school practice tablet paper, numbered one up to a hundred, with geographical locations—and yes, the sepia-toned, tissue-thin finds all bore numbers!
Treasure indeed! Someone told me recently biblical history scholars are seeking just such pictures. Who or where these scholars are, I don’t know, but I think I can safely copy and post the pictures here. And that I shall try out, experimenting with a couple… as soon as I find those pictures again!
To think that, but for Oldest Brother’s leafing, those photos would have gone into an auction, sold cheap with battered books boxed together, or tossed into a dumpster! Why didn’t anyone safeguard them, way back when?
And why, oh why, haven’t I—elected family archivist—safeguarded them better since?
Lots of treasure gets shuffled off into oblivion this way. Lots of kinds of treasure. Next week I hope to blog about some such prizes I’ve unearthed, and others that I long to.
And maybe I’ll even find and post those precious antique photos!