I have a fun Christmas tale of magic and synchronicity, are you ready?
When I was in my late 20's, I began collecting vintage children's books. I had just inherited some of my grandparent's collection of books from the 1920's, and I was totally in love. As a young illustrator/designer, the illustrations in these old books were incredibly inspiring, and soon I was searching for vintage treasures everywhere: on Ebay, and at thrift stores and antique shops.
Somewhere along the way, I came across an *awesome* double-sided book: The Goody-Naughty Book.
On one side of the book was the “goody” tales of good little girls and boys (above) and when you flipped the book around to the back and upside-down, it became the “naughty” side, and there were stories about... well... naughty children. (Below)
Amazing book, right? Look at those naughty little beasts!. I bought it straight away.
I loved the pictures and the stories, but one of my favorite parts was the charming inscription, for “Elmer Gaul”, written in pencil, and then “Ottawa”, dated Christmas Day of 1919.
There was something about Elmer’s name and the way it was written in that quirky handwriting that stuck in my mind.
Then a couple of years ago, on Christmas day, I received a present from a dear friend who knew that I loved vintage children books. My friend’s mother had just passed away, and the book was from his mother’s library. It was a beautiful 1913 printing of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (above).
I opened up the book, and check out what was written on the first page:
The same funny penmanship... written with the same pencil... on Christmas Day 1919... Elmer Gaul.
How could this even be possible, right? My friend grew up in Florida, so how did his family have this book? I couldn't remember where I got my first book... I searched through my purchase history on ebay, but there are no records dating that far back... so I chalked it up to magic. I mean, how else can you explain having two books from the same little boy's library that were given to him on the exact same Christmas almost a hundred years ago?
So, Elmer Gaul: whoever you were, and wherever you are: thank you for being my sweet Christmas synchronicity. You are forever a little boy in my bookshelf, and it is always magic when I open one of your books.
// The Goody-Naughty Book, Published in 1913 by Rand McNally, Written by Sarah Rippey, Illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright, Copy found here //
// Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp / Robin Hood, Published in 1915 by Reilly & Britton Co. Chicago, Pictures by John R. Neill, copy found here //
// Synchronicity (def.): a concept first explained by Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.//
// I found an additional inscription on the flip side of The Goody Naughty Book, signed "Elmer P. Gaul"; I was able to find this bit of information on him, and it looks like a match. If anyone has more information on Elmer, his life, or his library, I'd love to hear from you, thank you! //