Monday, May 30, 2016

True Love

Sarah E. Farro - True Love: A Story of English Domestic Life (1891) direct link
Open Library main page

This is a fascinating story - scholar Gretchen Gerzina was researching another topic and stumbled across a newspaper mention of something else, thus finding the second known novel by a black woman in the 19th century.  Gerzina thinks the book may have slipped through the cracks not just because it wasn't that popular but because it's about white domestics in Britain.  She had it digitized and now it's available for everybody.  The link in her article is to a Google scan but has a different scan of the same copy that I think is higher quality.  (The earlier dates on the Open Library listing appear to be catalog data, not the actual file which elsewhere has a January 2014 stamp.  I'm not sure about the reference to a microfilm.)

Gerzina gathered more information about Farro.  Born in 1859, Farro lived in Chicago where the book was published.  She died in 1937 (possibly - the article either gives that as the date or it is the date of a celebration "toward the end of her life").  She appears to have been involved in a personal injury case - at least it's the same name, in Chicago and the correct time period.  There's not much other information about Farro except that according to some press notices "she has had a high school education" and listed her favorite writers as Dickens, Thackeray and Holmes.  She doesn't appear to have written, or at least not published, anything else despite a newspaper mention that she was working on a follow-up.

Despite the claim in the article there are at least ten copies in US libraries according to Worldcat.  Interestingly, there are a couple in Malaysia - hard not to wonder how they ended up there.  (Though the Occam enthusiast in me suspects it may be a single copy with duplicate listings.)

The publisher Donohue & Henneberry started as a bookbinding business before moving to inexpensive reprints and some original titles.  They apparently continued to produce supplies and other print matter.  They occupied a quite large building in downtown Chicago.