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"Flowers from Bethlehem."  Photograph courtesy of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association.

Found: A Book of Pressed Flowers

As I may have noted before, I spent quite a few years cleaning and moving the Special Collection books of the Maria Mitchell Association to another building with the help of several years’ worth of fabulous Mitchell House summer interns.  Prior, I worked on cleaning and moving Maria Mitchell’s own library and the books of her family members that we have.  When I was working on the Botany Special Collection (SC) books, I came across this very small and unusually bound book.  It is bound with a beautiful wood cover and a lovely detailed ribbon is inserted as an inlay and then varnished over to protect not just the ribbon but the wood as well.  The title reads Jerusalem and what I believe is likely the word "Jerusalem" in Hebrew is above the English. 

Inside are wonderful combinations of flowers pressed in intricate patterns and wreaths from sites across Israel – each page labeled as to where the flowers supposedly came from.  This is obviously a souvenir that was purchased.  What makes it of even more interest, and also out of place with regular botany SC books, is the fact that in it is written, “Brought from Israel by William Mitchell Kendall.”  He was the nephew of Maria Mitchell, the son of her younger sister Phebe Mitchell Kendall and her husband Joshua Kendall.  William Mitchell Kendall was a senior architect with McKim, Mead, and White and travelled fairly extensively – including taking a trip in his late teens with his parents and his aunt Maria to Europe, including Russia in 1873.  I think he was likely influenced by his aunt’s love of travel and exploration.  Maria Mitchell once said, “The habit of traveling once adopted cannot be easily given up.”

Now, the book will be placed with the family’s collection of Special Collection books where it belongs. What an exciting find!

The Nation of Nantucket

The “Nation of Nantucket” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1847.  It was used by Edward Byers as the title of his 1987 publication on Nantucket society and politics from 1660 – 1820.  Both men spoke of the isolation and uniqueness of Nantucket and that such a title was fitting for our tiny spit of land far out at sea.  I, too, feel that it is appropriate – on many levels.  I use it as the title of this column because here I intend to regale you with all sorts of stories about Nantucketers, island life, island institutions, and the history (good and bad) of a small island that had an enormous influence on the world.  My focus will be mainly on Nantucket women, of course, but I will add some other things of interest to me – and I hope you – as well.  Stay tuned and to read my blog for the Maria Mitchell Association go to “Maria Mitchell’s Attic”.  And to read more about Nantucket's daring daughters, check out my book The Daring Daughters of Nantucket Island: How Island Women from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries Lived a Life Contrary to Other American Women available at island bookstores and on Nantucket Chronicle's Marketplace.

Jascin N. Leonardo Finger has served as curator of the Mitchell House at the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association since 1999.  She holds a Master’s in History.  Her passions are her family, all things Nantucket, good food, weaving, and photographing historic architecture.  The island has been a part of her life since she was introduced to it at age 1½ by her parents.  She lives year-round on the island with her husband, a naval architect, their son, and their Siberian Husky who takes them on long walks from one glorious end of the island to the other.