I post this as the fourth and final instalment of My ancestors’ books, though technically it’s not about a book but about this little black box:


This box, however, is stored with my ancestors’ books and obviously belongs with them. Its black colour and sombre appearance seems curiously appropriate, since its content is made up mostly of remembrance cards bearing the names, images and dates of death of long deceased members and friends of the family. Many of them are of young men who were killed as soldiers in World War II, others are more recent, chronicling natural deaths of civilians in the 1950s and 1960s, but there’s also a few that are much older, remembering soldiers killed way back in World War I…

It comes as a surprise, almost as a shock, then, that among all this doom and gloom there’s also this…

Playing-card sized cross-stitch charts which probably ended up with the remembrance cards simply because they’re of similar size and material.┬áThere’s actually a whole lot of those charts, most of them dedicated to different types of cross-stitch alphabets:

As mentioned before, all of this comes from a rather poor rural area, so embroidering clothes and home textiles in cross-stitch would already have been quite posh and fancy. And rightly enough, one of the stitch charts has a drawing of an elegantly dressed lady on the back:

Above the drawing someone has written four (female) names followed by the words “the whole gang”. Ok, maybe a more appropriate translation would be “the whole circle of friends” – “gang” may be a tad too cool and urbane for a bunch of country gals. Then again, there’s a good chance that at least one of them was reading Colette, so you never know what mischief they were up to.

And, of course, there’s much much more we’ll never know about them, considering that practically all that remains of them is a drawer full of books and a handful of stitch charts… But even as they are, those books offer fascinating glimpses into the everyday life of people who, in a manner of speaking, never made into the books themselves.